Image c/o Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Kimmo! Kimmo! Kimmo!
Fans were loud and appreciative for Kimmo Timonen as the Flyers’ honored the Finn’s retirement with a 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night. Michael Neuvirth recorded his second straight shutout behind stellar goaltending and a outstanding penalty kill. Neuvirth has been outstanding since being called into starting duty due to the personal matters surrounding the Flyers’ other netminder, Steve Mason.
The first period was one of the most complete efforts by the team in the young season. The Flyers’ were strong in the neutral zone and did not give the Blackhawks much space to generate any quality chances for most of the frame. The effort of the fourth line especially was noticeable as their forecheck and constant pressure caused a few Chicago turnovers in their own zone. Despite not scoring themselves, the Flyers’ out-attempted and out-hit the defending champions—something that Chicago is far from used to in recent years.
After failing to convert on two early power play opportunities in the first, the Flyers would strike quickly on the man-advantage in the second period as Sam Gagner fired home a wrist shot past a screened Corey Crawford to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Neuvirth would be tested throughout the period, including what Flyers’ coach Dave Hackstol called a game-changer when he robbed Marian Hossa point blank on a shorthanded breakaway in the second half of the period. Minutes later, Claude Giroux finally, finally, finally, finally, scored an even-strength goal at home when he potted home a loose rebound in front of Crawford to make the score 2-0.
Chicago immediately turned up the pressure and put the Flyers on their heels early as they rattled off the first eight shots of the third period. The Flyers did their goalie no favors as they took two poor-timed penalties midway through, including a dramatic 5-on-3 for 36 seconds. Despite the high volume of shots and chances generated by the Blackhawks, Neuvirth stood tall and gloved puck after puck. With no lead ever truly safe against Chicago, the Flyers’ got a much needed insurance goal from Matt Read on a gaffed play by Crawford late in the third and would hang on for the shutout victory.
-How great has it been to have a quality backup goaltender that now the team knows it can trust to start in almost any situation? With all respect to Ray Emery, Neuvirth has been more consistent over the past several seasons, not to mention younger and more athletic. Hackstol said he felt confident in his goalies coming into the season and thus far seems like a strength.
-Brayden Schenn has played really well these first few games of the season. He’s skating with confidence and making smart decisions. I know it’s early but it seems like Schenn might be on the verge of finally taking that next step people have been waiting for since he arrived in the Richards trade.
-On the other hand, while Sean Couturier had a great defensive game and strong possession numbers, he whiffed on what seemed to be a slam dunk of a goal early in the first period on a beautiful feed from Schenn. If Couturier can find some consistency offensively, he can become such a weapon due to his two-way play.
-This team has a quietly, yet aggressive demeanor to them in the early parts of the season. They’re starting to do the little things right, especially in the neutral zone. For most of the first half of the game, the Flyers really stymied the Chicago attack and forced several turnovers. Kudos to the fourth line once again, really setting the tempo early.
-Nice to see all the montage and video messages from former teammates to Kimmo tonight. The Flyers put on a wonderful ceremony prior to the game and the fans really showed Timonen the love tonight, even cheering him raising the Cup—albeit in a Blackhawks uniform.
-“She said no!” Fans heckled and booed Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane all night, and deservedly so. Fans were on their A game tonight for sure.