Most sports fans know the adage; “Defense wins championships.” It’s a proverb that just may be as old as sport itself, and one that I can still hear my former youth basketball coaches yelling in my nightmares. Some may debate its truthfulness, especially in the current NHL where scoring is up and the game seems to be less about physical size and more about speed, agility, and creativity.
The Philadelphia Flyers displayed just how beneficial a well-built defense can be in their 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins during Qualifiers round-robin play on Sunday in Toronto.
The entire Flyers’ roster played a role in successfully shutting down the Bruins. This was incredibly vital seeing as Boston was the best team in the NHL (44-14-12; 100 points) when the 2019-20 season was suspended back in March. They were eighth in the league in goals for during the regular season and also happen to be the home of the 2020 Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy (NHL leader in goals for the season) co-winner, David Pastrnak (48 goals).
The Flyers’ defensemen, more specifically the top two pairs (Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers), deserve to be recognized for their impressive play throughout the game.
The blueliners shined on both ends of the ice, contributing on three of the four Flyers’ goals, and helping to hold one of the best top lines in hockey (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak) to zero points and just eight shots on goal combined.
On offense, Travis Sanheim recorded the assist on Michael Raffl’s goal at 5:33 in the second period. About four minutes later, Ivan Provorov collected an assist on Nate Thompson’s tally to make it 2-0 Flyers.
Boston forward Chris Wagner scored late in the second period to cut the Flyers’ lead to one goal in hopes of swinging momentum in their favor going into the intermission. Philippe Myers single-handedly squashed that plan, executing the finest shot of the afternoon just eight seconds later for his first NHL playoff goal in his first career playoff game.
After the win, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault was pleased with the way his young second defensive pair performed.
“Tonight there was no doubt they made some big plays and made some big defensive plays. They were a big part of tonight’s win.”
THE 1-2 PUNCH
Ivan Provorov: 1 assist, +1, 3 blocks, 24:51 TOI
Matt Niskanen: + 1, 2 hits, 2 blocks, 20:20 TOI
Travis Sanheim: 1 assist, +3, 2 hits, 2 blocks
Philippe Myers: 1 goal, +3, 2 hits, 1 block
Defense may or may not win championships. However, it did help the Flyers destroy the Boston Bruins on Sunday. A strong defensive corps will be essential for continued success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Watch out for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports