For the first time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Flyers have completed the season sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets. In part two of the back-to-back games against the Blue Jackets this week, the Flyers once again pick up the win with some new faces on the ice. Brian Elliott would start in the net for Philadelphia on the way to a comeback victory in Columbus. This game took an extra frame, but Kevin “Hollywood” Hayes would secure the win with just over a minute left in overtime. The Flyers gain ground in the Metropolitan Division and the playoff standings.
Less than a minute into the game, 44 seconds to be exact, Oliver Bjorkstrand beat Brian Elliott top shelf to give the Columbus Blue Jackets an early lead. It was reminiscent of the early struggles that Elliott faced at the Wells Fargo Center against the New Jersey Devils earlier this month. Nick Foligno added another with 10:55 remaining in the first period, shooting behind the back, between his skates. The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t about to be down and out in the first period. Only 25 seconds later, Travis Konecny was credited with a goal after the puck deflected from a shot by Travis Sanheim.
Down, 2-1, the Philadelphia Flyers needed a stronger period than the first. With 16:21 remaining in the second period, Stefan Mateau deflected a Boone Jenner shot, extending the Columbus Blue Jackets lead. At this point, the Blue Jackets were converting on just under 70% of their shots. Feeling the heat, Nicolas Aube-Kubel answered back in a one-on-one situation, beating Elvis Merzlikins. Just about two minutes later, Claude Giroux scored a one-timer goal on the powerplay, knotting the score up at three before the third period.
Brian Elliott didn’t begin the first and second periods of this game as the Philadelphia Flyers would have hoped, but he was spectacular in the third period and overtime. Claude Giroux’s powerplay goal occurred when Nick Foligno was in the penalty box. This was the same scenario when Giroux became the new leader in Flyers franchise history for powerplay assists, except, it was Jakub Voracek who scored when Foligno served a penalty on Tuesday. Vladislav Gavrikov came within inches of scoring a game-winning goal in the third period, but the left post saved the day for Elliott. Heading into overtime, 3-3, Philadelphia still had a chance to sweep the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In the closing minutes of the third period, Brian Elliott and Travis Sanheim made great plays in shutting down Oliver Bjorkstrand. Jakub Voracek put a shot on goal that was saved by Elvis Merzlikins, but the rebound was available. Nathan Gerbe had a good opportunity to shoot from the wing on Elliott, but the save was made with no rebound. With both teams now totaling 31 shots, Kevin Hayes crossed from the wing and into the slot, scoring on a quick wrist shot to win the game. That is Hayes’ fifth game-winning goal of the season, the most on the Philadelphia Flyers.
We cannot praise Kevin Hayes and his contributions enough for the Philadelphia Flyers this season. He is clutch! What an addition to the team by Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault! On the penalty kill, Hayes is a threat. In overtime, he has the killer instinct.
Elliott’s Slow Starts
When I was writing the preview for this game, my research showed that Elvis Merzlikins did have the advantage over Brian Elliott heading into this matchup. While Elliott has been steady for the Philadelphia Flyers on the road this season, his ability to give up the early goals worries me. It got the Flyers into trouble at home against the Metropolitan Division worst New Jersey Devils. Early on, it looked like this was the direction that Philadelphia would be headed with Elliott’s start on Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. I credit the resiliency of Elliott in this game, tightening up in the third period to give his team a chance to win in overtime.
The Bully Mentality
Something that jumps out about this team is the ability to play physical and not make mental mistakes. That wasn’t the case with Dave Hakstol and it’s a big part of why I have embraced Alain Vigneault as my favorite coach in Philadelphia. “Be a f*cking Flyer” is exactly the mantra that has never disappeared this season. The praise belongs to the defense, specifically players like Matt Niskanen, Ivan Provorov, and Robert Hagg who have made forwards think twice. The younger players, such as Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who are bringing this “bully” brand to the ice with Sean Couturier and company ought to get Philadelphia excited about the future of the Flyers.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers are home at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA to host the Winnipeg Jets. This game takes place on Saturday, February 22nd at 1 pm. Be sure to give a follow for more Flyers coverage at EricReesePSN and PhiladelphiaSN on Twitter!
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