From “Let’s Go Flyers!” chants to “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!” ringing throughout T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Sunday’s inaugural contest between the Flyers and the Golden Knights felt like a home game at the Wells Fargo Center. I’d be interested to see how many orange (and black) sweaters were actually in the crowd as the Flyers' official Twitter account posted this tweet from the press box in Las Vegas. If I had to guess, I’d say there were four to five thousand Flyers fans in the crowd.
But on the ice, the Flyers continued their surge with two huge wins and four crucial points in the standings.
Let's take a deeper look at the Flyers' successful two-game swing through Arizona and Vegas this past weekend:
• Perhaps the most encouraging sign from the two-game desert sweep was the performance and resiliency of Michal Neuvirth, who became the first goaltender in NHL history to earn a win after entering the game during the shootout. You can never script when your number will be called, but Neuvirth has singlehandedly helped the Flyers earn five points in his last three appearances, the first of which came in relief of Alex Lyon in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators last Saturday. Since entering that game nine days ago, Neuvirth has stopped 44 of 45 shots and 10 of 11 in the shootout.
• The Flyers handed the Golden Knights just their fourth regulation loss at home this season and apparently the presence of a Czech netminder is part of the secret ingredient for success. Neuvirth joins fellow countrymen Petr Mrazek (Red Wings) and Jaroslav Halak (Islanders) to win in regulation in Vegas. American Ben Bishop (Stars) is the other.
• Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux continue to haunt Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease no matter where the netminder goes. The Flyers' top line dominated Fleury Sunday in a game reminiscent of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Flyers and Penguins. In Game 2 of that series, both Couturier and Giroux recorded their only hat tricks. Giroux scored on the power play, shorthanded and with an empty net and finished with six goals in the six-game series. Couturier, then only 19, posted the only three goals of his rookie playoff campaign in that game. The torment continued Sunday night. Both Giroux and Couturier scored in the 4-1 win and the Flyers' top line finished with a seven-point night.
• Speaking of Giroux, ever since he called out his lackluster play in the game against the Hurricanes this past Tuesday, he’s been on an offensive rampage with three goals and three assists over his last three games. That was enough for the NHL to award him First Star of the week honors. This latest three-game stretch proves yet again why Giroux’s teammates respect him as a captain and a leader. If you listened to his postgame comments following the win in Arizona, you could clearly tell that Giroux was battling an illness. There was a belief that Giroux’s sickness would force him to miss Saturday’s game against the Coyotes, but he was able to gut it out and turn in a very solid performance that included a power-play goal. It’s this type of lead-by-example moment that forms bonds and creates character for successful teams.
• It took Radko Gudas 155 attempted shots and 730 minutes of ice time this season, but finally, the Flyers' defenseman registered his first goal of the season. His empty-net tally secured the Flyers' 4-1 win in Vegas and also prompted an entertaining exchange on the Golden Knights' twitter account. You could see Gudas’ teammates were genuinely happy for him as Shayne Gostisbehere had some fun with Gudas on the bench.
radko gudas just scored on us. puppy pics plz— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 12, 2018
• According to Brian Smith, the Flyers' manager of broadcasting and media services, Sunday’s game against the Golden Knights marked just the eighth time in team history the Flyers' opponent did not commit a single penalty. The last time the Flyers won a game when the opponent did not commit a penalty came nearly 40 years ago — a 4-2 decision over Los Angeles on April 1, 1978.
• For whatever reason, some of the Flyers' more impressive wins this season have taken place on the road in the second game of a back-to-back set against Western Conference opponents. After coming up short to the Kings, 2-0, on their season-opening road trip, the Flyers have ripped off three straight in the above mentioned-scenario with wins against the Blues (2-0 on Nov. 2), Canucks (4-1 on Dec. 7) and now Sunday's triumph over the Golden Knights. The Flyers are now 8-4-1 on the road against the West with two games remaining — a back-to-back set against the Stars and Avalanche on March 27 and 28.
• Of the Flyers' remaining 26 games, their upcoming back-to-back set in Dallas and Denver features the only two games outside of the Eastern time zone. In those two games in Texas and Colorado, they’ll cover 3,315 miles. Conversely, the Flyers will travel just 6,513 miles over their remaining 11 road games. With their season-opening four-game road trip as their longest of the season, the Flyers may have one of the most favorable 82-game schedules they've had to navigate.
• The Flyers improved to 16-2-4 this season when scoring at least four goals. That includes 13 straight wins.