By Julie Glass
Thanks to a power play fueled by Wayne Simmonds, outstanding goaltending by Steve Mason and the steady progress of 19-year-old rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov, the Flyers carry a six-game winning streak into tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells.
Simmonds (above) is coming off back-to-back two-goal performances and leads the NHL with eight power-play goals. He is tied for third in the NHL with 15 goals.
“He’s been primarily pretty much a 30-goal scorer,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s doing the exact same thing, doing exactly what he has always done. The thing with Simmer is that he doesn’t change his game, he doesn’t waver. I think you are seeing a very confident player right now, a very competitive player and a very focused player. He’s been very important for our group here especially in the first third of the season and that is going to continue.”
The Flyers’ power play has produced more goals this season — 24 in 28 games — than any team in the NHL. Claude Giroux is a big reason. He leads the NHL with 15 power-play points.
Mason has been the Flyers’ best player in recent games. He stopped 42 of 44 shots in Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime win against the Florida Panthers, his fifth straight win. Florida recorded 85 shot attempts to the Flyers’ 51.
“Mase has been outstanding over the last three weeks,” Flyers right winger Jake Voracek said. “Sometimes you are going to have hockey games like that but Mase was great and we scored when we needed to.”
Mason’s 88 wins as a Flyer moved him past Pelle Lindbergh and into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history.
The Flyers have also received steady play from Provorov, a 19-year-old rookie who picked up an assist and recorded a huge block on a 2-on-1 in overtime on Tuesday night.
“I think he has done a great job all year long and he is only going to get better,” Simmonds said of the 19-year-old rookie. If you watch him play he is getting better and better, not every game, but every shift.”
Provorov will draw the assignment of stopping the Oilers’ top line of Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl, who have combined for 30 goals and 78 points this season. McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points and all 11 of his goals have come at even strength.
The Flyers likely will try to match the checking line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against the McDavid line.
The Oilers are coming off Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss in Buffalo. Jordan Eberle, Lucic (8 goals) and Draisaitl (11 goals) scored for the Oilers (14-10-4) while Cam Talbot made 22 saves.
The Oilers blew a one-goal lead late in regulation and lost on a power-play goal in overtime.
“We did a really good job taking that game over after the first,” McDavid told the Edmonton Journal. “Started slow, battled back, had the lead and weren’t really giving up much, especially in the third period. Give them credit. They found a way to get one, get it to overtime and their power play bared down.”
“It comes down to them pulling their goalie and executing and we have to live with that,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “That’s going to happen in the game, that’s going to happen every now and then and it’s the next 22 seconds when you take a penalty that you don’t need to take and that sets you up for a loss.”
As for projected rosters, Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas is expected to return after missing three games with an illness. Oilers defenseman Dillon Simpson could make his NHL debut. The Flyers activated forward Boyd Gordon and placed Matt Read (upper body injury) on injured reserve.