Written By Jason Voorhees
The silence from the stands was deafening. The cheers coming from the away players on the ice and bench were ear-piercing. The Flyers comeback win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday truly saved their season. The team still has a huge uphill climb that leaves very little room for error. However; making the playoffs still remains possible and the teams effort on Sunday reflected that notion.
Sean Courturier's goal with 3.4 seconds left in overtime gave the Flyers yet another come from behind win against the Penguins. This was actually the second such win in the final seconds that they were able to achieve against their cross state rivals. The Flyers showed a ton of heart in the win and their never say die attitude displayed the true level of maturity for one of the youngest teams in the NHL.
39 games into this season, the Flyers found themselves in last place in the NHL. The team's General Manager (Ron Hextall) and the team's Coach (Dave Hakstoll) had both been recently relieved of their duties. Basically, the Flyers were looking at yet another lost season of disappointment.
Then something changed. Phantoms coach Scott Gordon was promoted to the big leagues and the rest is history. The team started winning. The young talent began to start believing in itself and the results started to change. The Flyers were once again relevant in the NHL.
After last nights win, the Flyers sit six points behind a playoff spot with only ten games to play. Their chances of making the postseason remain slim to none. However; one thing that is not slim is the size of the team's heart; which continues to increase with each passing comeback victory like last nights.
These type of wins have become more commonplace for the Flyers and its a true testament to how far they have come in a little over half a season. The teams rookie phenom goalie Carter Hart displayed yet another reason why the teams future is extremely bright after stopping 40 of 41 pucks in the victory.
Carter Hart had missed the previous eight games due to injury before playing in Thursday's 5-2 loss against Washington. Hart rebounded in a huge way last night stopping many point blank shots against one of the premiere scoring teams in the NHL. The Flyers were also able to blank Sidney Crosby on the scoreboard which put an end to his impressive scoring streak against them.
The turning point in the game came with a little over a minute left in regulation; with Carter Hart sitting on the bench in favor of the extra attacker. Defenseman Ivan Provorov sped like a thief in the night and made a diving play to knock the puck away from Nick Bjugstad; just as he was about to tip the puck into an empty net. Then with just 19 seconds left, James van Riemsdyk scored the game tying goal to erase the 1-0 deficit.
Van Riemsdyk has been extremely hot down the stretch posting 19 goals in his last 29 games since January 10th, which places him second in that category over that span. In fact, JVR has goals in each of his last three games. He now has 25 goals despite missing 16 games earlier in the season due to injury. If James did not miss any time, he would have been projected to score 37 goals; which would be a career high for the goal scoring winger.
After tying the game up in regulation, both teams went up and down the ice in overtime. The overtime period was extremely entertaining as the teams traded odd man rushes at a record pace. Both goaltenders made highlight goal saves during the period until the game approached the final minute. In fact, the Penguins came very close to ending the game themselves when Brian DuMoulin came a blocker save away from scoring on Hart.
Sean Courturier finally ended the game in dramatic fashion after deking Sidney Crosby on the half boards as he glided into the slot and fired a wrister past Penguins goalie Marty Murray. The goal was the exclamation mark to galliant effort by the Orange and Black.
Only time will tell if the Flyers are able to make the playoffs. One thing that's set in stone is that the Flyers have finally found their Hart. And its that hart and the heart of the rest of the young group that will truly define the success of the franchise going forward. The sky is the limit for this roster and the future is bright. There is no arguing that the team has matured and at least the remaining part of the season will be entertaining.
A young squad that has grown up in front of our eyes. A group of talented players that have turned their season around in less than half a season. A team of players that believes that this could be their year. Why Not? Anything can happen and this will surely be a doozy down the stretch. Here is to hoping that the Hart will propel them into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Keep the faith.
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.