GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Flyers finished an impressive 3-0-1 road trip Monday night with a 5-2 win over the NHL's hottest team, Arizona.
Here are five observations from the Western swing:
Late in Monday's game, with Shayne Gostisbehere and Nic Aube-Kubel in scrums, defenseman Christian Folin came charging down the ice to help his teammates. Good for him. The Flyers need their players to show that mentality.
That sequence, and another wild scrum a short time later with Radko Gudas in the middle of things can have a galvanizing effect on a team.
By the way, Folin had four of the team's 22 blocked shots and was plus-2. After a shaky start with his new team, Folin has regrouped and played well. He leads the Flyers with a plus-6 rating and has supplied some much-needed physicality on the back end.
The Flyers' top line — Sean Couturier centering Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny — combined for three goals, three assists, and a plus-7 rating. It was a great bounce-back game after a sub-par performance by that unit in San Jose.
Backup goalie Cal Pickard kept the Flyers in the game with a strong performance in a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday in San Jose. Monday, he was even better, stopping 35 of 37 shots to help snap the Coyotes' five-game winning streak.
With Pickard playing well and Alex Lyon looking steady in an 11-game NHL stint a year ago, the Flyers should not rush Brian Elliott back from an injury as they did last season.
The fourth line didn't play much on the road trip, but the top three lines did an admirable job throughout the four games — with the exception of Couturier's unit in San Jose. Coach Dave Hakstol has a tendency to change lines at an alarming rate, but because of the chemistry these units displayed throughout the trip, there is no need to make moves for a while.
The top three lines, centered by Couturier, a sizzling Nolan Patrick (six points on the four-game swing) and Jordan Weal, respectively, can build off an excellent trip.
The Flyers have a chance to establish themselves as a strong contender for the Metro Division title during a five-game homestand (the season's longest) that starts Thursday against the same Coyotes.
Considering the late-game scrums that occurred Monday — there were nine penalties called in the final 20 seconds, and throughout the game there was constant jabbering between Jake Voracek and former Flyer Nick Cousins — do not be surprised if this has an explosive carryover effect. Old-time hockey might return that night. (The Flyers, descendants of the Broad Street Bullies, have not had a fight all season.)
This homestand will play a key part in setting up the Flyers' season. Opponents have been too comfortable playing at the Wells Fargo Center. Having shown they can win on the road, the Flyers, who are just 2-4 at the Wells Fargo Center (the Gritty Curse?), need to re-establish their home-ice advantage.