Flyers goalies… will it ever end? Among the criticisms leveled at Michal Neuvirth has been about the timing of his big saves – i.e. when his team needs a big save to hold a lead or stay in a game, does he give it to them?
It was emphatic yes after Colorado cut the Flyers lead in half on Matt Nieto's goal at 5:36 of the second period.
Immediately Nathan MacKinnon and his prolific first line initiated a wave of pressure culminating in Neuvirth's incredible cross-crease save on Miko Rantanen, abandoning his stick to get to the post in time.
It preserved the lead, but it may have done the opposite for Neuvirth, who was playing in his first game since being sidelined on Feb.18 with what was believed to be a groin-related injury. A few minutes later, during a television timeout, he was replaced by Petr Mrazek.
That makes four in the last eight games that Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has made a goaltending change. Mrazek played well, especially late in the third when, from the 4:31 mark to 2:09 mark, the puck only left the Flyers zone when Matt Read iced it. In fact, except for one brief departure, the Flyers defended their lead from that point until it ended with a much-needed and improbable 2-1 victory.
Here's another positive – Jordan Weal: One of the lesser reported developments of the stretch run has been the contributions Weal has made since becoming a steady member of the lineup on March 17.
Weal's work to set up Ivan Provorov's first-period goal was, well, Konecny-esque. Weal wheeled back and forth along the lower left boards, spinning Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau around as if they were bubble hockey players, before teeing up Provorov at the point.
Later, early in the third, Weal turned a puck over outside of Colorado's blueline and pushed it deep, resulting in a power play after Soderberg interfered with Scott Laughton as he pursued it. He also did some great work in his own zone as the exhausted Flyers protected their slim lead
Weal has four points over his last three games, giving him 21 for the season.
Eleven of his 12 points last season came in March and April.
Did you notice? On Tuesday the Flyers missed the net 20 times on shots. After the first period Wednesday they were actually ahead of that pace. They missed eight and hit the net 11 times, but no one cared because they led 2-0. And they became more accurate, albeit less prolific in the second, missing just once in 13 tries… Twice now in two nights, Andrew MacDonald has been stripped of the puck from behind along the boards in his own zone, guilty of taking too much time to make an outlet pass or mid-ice dump. Both led to juicy chances. Michal Neuvirth's best save in the first period was on J.T. Compher after he walked in alone following his theft of MacDonald…
Finally, a Pet Peeve: The phrase, too often uttered by broadcasters and sometimes in print, that a goaltender "Didn't have a chance''. Andrew Hammond had a chance to stop Claude Giroux's blast to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. It would have been a good save for a lightly used and lightly regarded goaltender, but his positioning on the cross-ice pass wasn't the best, and the Avs paid the price. But it could have been stopped, as is the case for most goals in which that phrase is overused.
You want to know when a goalie doesn't have a chance to make a save? When players are piled upon him or when he has been lifted for an extra skater in the waning minutes. Just once I would love to hear someone say the goalie "Didn't have a chance'' to stop an empty netter.