Flyers Barrage Collapses Blue Jackets

PHILADELPHIA-In a game that was nothing short of a strafing run, the Philadelphia Flyers made the Columbus Blue Jackets look like the worst team in the NHL with a 9-2 victory Saturday night.

Philadelphia’s barrage saw eight different players score against a team that showed a near abhorrence for defensive hockey. The effort tied a franchise record that was last achieved in on October 23, 1983 versus Toronto in an 8-5 victory.

The last time the Flyers scored nine goals in a game was February 6, 1997 versus the Montreal Canadiens.

As much of an unmitigated high as the game was for the Flyers, it was a night of unparalleled lows for the Blue Jackets.

Playing completely uninspired hockey, the team further put their coaching staff and management in jeopardy as they plunged to a record of 2-11-1 for five points, by far the worst performance of any team in the NHL.

It’s sad commentary for a team that had high hopes going into the season following their big ticket off season acquisitions of former Flyers’ C Jeff Carter and D James Wisniewski.

Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets captain, put it best:

“It was undisciplined hockey. We got caught playing against an Eastern Conference team that has the most firepower of any team in the league. The coaching staff warned us…it was just poorly executed.”

It was a night to pad your plus minus statistics as rookie defensemen Erik Gustafsson and veteran Matt Carle were plus-6 and plus-5, respectively. The last time a Flyers rookie was plus-6 or better in a game was March 30, 1984 when Rich and Ron Sutter were each plus-6 and Thomas Ericsson was plus-8.

It was a noteworthy night for the players who were part of the Jeff Carter trade as winger Jakub Voracek, skewered publically after last season’s end by former coach Scott Arniel for his conditioning, scored a goal and two assists, while Sean Couturier who arrived with Columbus’ eighth pick in the 2011 Entry Draft scored twice.

Five points from those two players in this game looks like a decent return, albeit with the caveat that Carter remains out of the Blue Jackets with a stress fracture in his foot.

The Flyers sprinted to a quick early lead with two goals in the opening 3:09.

Winger James van Riemsdyk got the scoring started when defenseman Erik Gustafsson found him wide open in front, unchecked, and got to pick a spot to fire the puck past Jackets’ goaltender Steve Mason.

Shortly after, Jaromir Jagr at the far right side of the goal whipped a half pass/shot in front that deflected off of defenseman Fedor Tyutin’s stick and in.
It was to become a microcosm of the evening to come for Columbus.

Ten minutes later, checking forward Max Talbot worked a two on one with Voracek and potted a highlight reel backhander through Mason’s five- hole.

Mason was pulled in favor of backup goaltender Allen York, who was then greeted by Claude Giroux’s wicked wrist shot from the right circle, marking Philadelphia’s lead to four. Giroux was left as wide open as van Riemsdyk was because three Blue Jackets player followed Jaromir Jagr who calmly backhanded the pass to his center.

Voracek enacted full revenge against his former mates when defenseman Andrej Meszaros carried the puck into the offensive zone, fired a turnaround play that found Max Talbot. Talbot whipped the puck out near the blue line.

The Czech fired a rising wrist shot that was screened by Eric Wellwood and found twine.

“I’m really happy,” Voracek said. “It’s been tough to play against my friends, but it’s a hockey game and I was very excited for when this hockey game was coming up.”

It was the first time that the Flyers led a game 5-0 after one period since 2009 when they led Toronto, coincidentally in another 8-5 victory.

“We had a strong start,” winger Wayne Simmonds said. “Lavy kept stressing stay on structure and just keep playing like you know how. And we did that the rest of the game.”

The Flyers would not put on as much severe pressure in the 2nd period, but the outcome didn’t come up any rosier for the Jackets as they gave up three goals on ten shots, with Sean Couturier notching a goal, while wingers Wayne Simmonds and Carle scored 20 seconds apart.

Couturier’s goal came as a result of a three on one shorthanded break, while Simmonds scored shortly after a decisive victory in a fight with Jackets enforcer Derek Dorsett.

Carle’s goal was a classic pinch in play with a bit of nifty stickhandling while Columbus’ defensive players haggardly watched.

The Blue Jackets managed two goals in the third period and got some decent pressure on Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who finished with a 33 save performance.

The shutout breaker by Dorsett was on a nice rocket shot from the slot on the break, while Grant Clitsome managed to flip a shot that deflected several times before it got past Bryzgalov.

In the end, though, the Blue Jackets put forth a moribund effort and one has to wonder about the future of the franchise as they enter a four day break in which they could see some substantial organizational changes.

photo by del Tufo. (Simmonds, L, Voracek, C, Schenn, R)