Flyers’ better defense has led to latest scoring tear

VOORHEES – Scoring four or more goals in eight straight games wouldn’t seem like that big a deal if not for one little fact.

The Flyers won all of them.

Heading into Saturday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers had produced an overwhelming offensive margin since Feb. 18, outscoring opponents 36-16.

Along the way, they’ve lit up teams that are pretty stingy on defense, including Columbus twice and Carolina.

Flyers coach Alain Vigneault was asked if better defense has led to an increase in “transition’’ goals.

“There’s no doubt we talk about that, going from defense to offense,’’ Vigneault said. “We been able to, with our transition game – if you look at the fourth goal (in Wednesday night’s 5-2 win at Washington) scored. . .defending in our end and taking it to the other and having our ‘D’ jump up, that was a great play.’’

General manager Chuck Fletcher says defense/offense go hand-in-hand.

Speaking in an interview on ESPN radio station 97.3 in South Jersey, Fletcher said cutting down on goals per game has helped with play at the other end of the rink.

“The young ‘D’ have really grown,’’ Fletcher said. “I think our forwards deserve a lot of credit, too, for how we’ve played.

“Last year we gave up three goals a game and when you do that you don’t have to be a math genius to know if you’re giving up three-plus a game, you have to get four. It’s really hard to get four goals a game in this league consistently.’’

The Flyers’ forwards, particularly the third and fourth lines, have done a good job of backchecking at even strength and grinding away on the penalty kill.

“I think the offense has been spurred by the way we’ve played defensively,’’ Fletcher said. “We do a good job of jamming up the middle of the ice. We counterattack really well.

“Our forwards have really bought in to how we have to play. When you do that, you’re giving up less, have the puck more and you score more. So I think it’s the defense that’s fueled everything.’’

 

>Praise for Vigneault

 

Fletcher figured the Flyers were going to be somewhat better than last year’s disappointing .500 effort but it’s safe to say he wasn’t sure they would be battling for a division title this late in the season.

That said, the GM gives a lot of the credit to Vigneault, who sort of used the first half of the season as a teaching/learning experience.

Now that the players know what Vigneault wants, it shows on the ice.

“He has a great mentality, a great attitude,’’ Fletcher said on ESPN. “He’s been that way all year. He really is even-keeled. But he’s enjoyed it, he’s enjoyed every day being here, he’s trying to encourage the players to embrace the challenge of where we’re at. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the process.

“There are always going to be things that come up, there are going to be tough games and things like that. But his attitude has been infectious. The players are confident that we have a good team, need to work hard but if we keep doing the things we’re doing, things should be OK.’’

 

>Short shots

 

The Flyers were looking to extend their winning streak over Buffalo to four straight games, the longest since a five-gamer from November, 2013 to February, 2015. . .From the “where has the time gone? department: Travis Konecny needs just three more games to reach 300 in the NHL. . .Claude Giroux is just two game-winning goals away from passing Tim Kerr for seventh on the Flyers’ all-time list. . .The Flyers reached the 40-win mark the other night, marking the 11th time in team history they’ve reached that amount in 67 or fewer games. The last time was 2010-11. . .Nineteen different players had at least one point during the Flyers’ eight-game winning streak.

 

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 918 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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