The Flyers have the Minnesota Wild figured out. Just spot them a two-goal lead.
The Flyers swept their season series with Minnesota by beating the Wild, 5-4, Tuesday night after trailing, 3-1, through the opening 20 minutes.
In their game at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 14, the Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Flyers stormed back to win, 7-4.
James van Riemsdyk scored twice, finishing with five goals against the Wild this season.
Here are my observations from the game at Xcel Energy Center:
• Once again, the Flyers were victimized by some horrendous officiating. A night after a potential goal was blown dead, defenseman Robert Hagg was whistled for a high-sticking double minor that he didn’t commit. Why the officials didn’t utilize replay to confirm their decision is baffling, but to force the Flyers to kill a four-minute PP down 3-1 could have been devastating.
• I thought Justin Bailey should have made his Flyers debut against Pittsburgh, but after watching Mikhail Vorobyev, I guess interim head coach Scott Gordon figured he had nothing to lose with Bailey as Vorobyev had reverted back to not skating.
As for Bailey, he was eight seconds into his first shift when the Flyers connected on their first goal. I liked how Bailey drove hard to the net, drawing the attention of the Wild defense, allowing the shot to deflect off a defenseman. One thing you notice about Bailey is that he doesn’t wait for things to happen.
• When Carter Hart faced the Wild last month at the WFC, he alluded to Minnesota trying to run him into the net and it took that same approach Tuesday, bearing down on Anthony Stolarz. If you were watching the game on your TV, it was difficult to see precisely where the puck was in and around the crease because of a heavy flow of traffic as the Wild’s bigger forwards tried to Paul Bunyan their way through the Flyers' smaller defensemen on their way to the net.
• For so much of this season, the ineffective power play would drag this Flyers team down and take its spirits with it. Now it seems the Flyers are gaining strength and confidence from their power play. Van Riemsdyk’s 3-2 PP goal came at just the right time and gave the Flyers a much-needed boost, allowing them to eventually tie the game after two periods.
JVR added his second PP goal, which proved to be the game-winner. That power play now has goals in six of the last seven games with a 44 percent rate of success.
• Have you noticed when Travis Sanheim asserts himself in the offensive end, good things usually happen and rarely does he make a bad pinch or decision to jump in the play? Sanheim drove hard to the net, leading to Sean Couturier’s 3-3 goal. In 57 games this season, Sanheim has already doubled his point total from his rookie season with 20 points in 57 games after managing just 10 points in 49 games last year. Sanheim could be a 50-point contributor if he was a mainstay on the power play.
• I don’t how much longer Gordon can go without sticking with the Claude Giroux-Couturier-Jakub Voracek line from start to finish. The JVR-Giroux-Travis Konecny combo has really fizzled over the last six games and I find it playing defense during much of its shift and unable to create anything offensively.
Giroux and Couturier scored game-tying goals with Voracek unselfishly leaving the puck for Giroux, who has a much more lethal shot.
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