Jan 17, 2008, 9:03 AM EST
With a 5-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night, the Flyers not only kept up their winning ways, but also their excellent scoring production. The team is third in the NHL in goals-for average, behind only Detroit and Ottawa. But the Flyers aren’t doing it on the back of one guy, like a Kovalchuk or an Ovechkin. They’re consistently scoring goals in bunches, with six players already having double-digit goal tallies and players up and down the roster stepping up their scoring while others get through injuries or cold streaks. We’ve said it plenty before, but every line on this team can score, presenting matchup difficulties in all phases of the game.
For the second straight game, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was a big part of the team’s balanced attack, scoring a goal and adding two assists, marking six points in his last two games. He opened the scoring by sneaking in from the left and pegging the top of the net with a perfect water-bottle wrister. The All-Star is logging plenty of ice time, but staying in the plus column and out of the penalty box lately.
Timonen’s scoring efforts in the last two games have complemented the continued heroics of Scott Hartnell, who added another goal to recent tear. Hartnell’s been playing like a captain lately, providing a consistent source of goals and assists, but just as importantly, a physical presence on the ice. Before the first minute had ticked off the clock, Hartnell had dropped the gloves with Olli Jokinen, taking the Panthers’ leading scorer off the ice for 5 minutes and setting the tone for the game despite it being a rather lackluster fight. In the third period, Scottie dropped ‘em again, this time with Richard Zednick. Both players wear visors, so it wasn’t much to see.
Best of the Rest
With the play of Simon Gagne this past week, it’s hard to believe the Flyers survived so long without him. Gags lit the lamp again, and his presence has clearly helped jumpstart the once-stalled Danny Briere, who scored two more goals last night. Mike Richards added two assists as well, and continues to lead the team in points. Richards, Hartnell, and Steve Downie have gelled together nicely, and Downie assisted on the Hartnell goal with a long outlet pass to set up the break. And last but not least, Antero Niittymaki won again, his first W at home this season. Don’t let the three goals against fool you; Niitty had a great game, including a diving stick save in the third period. The shot may have been going wide, it’s hard to tell, but Niitty swatted it away with authority at a critical time, as the Panthers had crept back from a 4-1 deficit and were within one at that point. Niittymaki is looking more and more like this team’s starter, and John Stevens reportedly said the words “we have two #1s” this week.
Having a 4-1 first period lead cut so dramatically is a cause for concern, as the Flyers continue to have off-periods. Fortunately, they’d scored enough early to weather the storm. Derian Hatcher had an awful turnover in the defensive zone, which left a surprised Niittymaki high and dry. Hatcher’s play lately is better than many fans have given him credit for though. He’s probably been the team’s most solid blueliner this season, although mistakes like that one are more memorable than “solid play.”
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