28 December 2009

Carter's Big Weekend Helps Lift Flyers to Wins in Carolina and New York

When teams are slumping, coaches and general managers call on their star players to rejuvenate their lineup. Jeff Carter answered the call, tallying two goals and an assist in back-to-back wins against the Hurricanes and Islanders.
Carter seems to have rediscovered his form, scoring on two beautiful goals reminscent of last year’s 46-goal season. Carter had five shots in each of this weekend’s games, converting on two of them when he beat Carolina’s Cam Ward on a snapshot upstairs on Saturday, and then powered a wrist shot nine-hole on New York’s Martin Biron on Sunday.
Moreover, Carter’s determined play the last couple of weeks has been an inspiration to the whole team. Regardless of the Flyers’ struggles, Carts has been buzzing all over the ice, getting to loose pucks and creating scoring chances.

Additionally, the captain has also stepped his play as of late. Mike Richards notched two goals and assist in last Wednesday’s victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as the opening goal in Saturday’s contest against the Hurricanes.
Carter and Richards aren’t the only stars helping to boost the Flyers’ offense over the current road trip. Danny Briere scored two goals and picked up an assist in this weekend’s play, while Simon Gagne—fresh off surgery to repair a double hernia—picked up two points in the game against Tampa last week.
Gagne has been impressive since his return, skating hard and even throwing the body around a bit. Gags has 11 shots in his first five games played since late October, in addition to enjoying first-line duties with Mike Richards and Claude Giroux.
Not to be forgotten is Michael Leighton, who was forced into the starter’s spot following injuries to Ray Emery and Brian Boucher. Leighton has been strong since coming in relief for Boucher, winning his last three starts after not having won a game since November 15th—playing for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Over the past three games, Leighton has a stellar 2.15 GAA and .933 save percentage.
Unfortunately, the Flyers three consecutive wins have not come easily or without controversy. They blew a 2-0 lead in Tampa before taking over the game in the third period, and managed to give up a 3-0 lead in Carolina.
The Hurricanes scored three times in the third period to send the game to a shootout, where Danny Briere and Mike Richards beat Ward for the win.
Yesterday, the Islanders tied the game at 1-1 just a few minutes into the second period, before Jeff Carter scored on an odd-man rush to take the lead at 2-1. In the third period, Briere had a goal disallowed that would have padded the Flyers’ lead to two goals with little time left to play.
The Flyers aggressively killed off two penalties in the third to keep the score at 2-1, with notable help from Michael Leighton in the back end.
Regardless of their sloppy play at times, the Flyers have persevered and found ways to win games. And while two points are two points no matter how you get them, the black and orange are going to have a tough time getting any points if they don’t tighten up in their own end.
It’s great that the Laviolette system is starting to click and that we’re scoring goals, but other teams are not going to be as forgiving as the Lightning and ‘Canes.
Bottom line:
Yes, we’re getting better. Yes, we showed grit and held on for a couple tough wins. But if the Flyers give up leads to teams like the Penguins and Devils, we’ll be lucky to make it to overtime and get any points at all.
Hopefully the confidence the Flyers have gained over this road trip so far will keep them from making the same mistakes they made in Tampa Bay and Carolina.
God knows they can’t afford it.
Side Notes:
A week ago, the Flyers were 2nd to last in points in the NHL. Today, the Flyguys are two points away from a playoff spot.
Matt Stairs: Traitor?

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