Wayne Train Up And Running For Flyers
Five games ago, Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds scored just five goals along with ten assists.
Not bad totals by any stretch, but not spectacular for a productive winger known for hard work, physical play, and most importantly, timely scoring.
Since going goalless for 10 straight games dating from Nov. 27 until Dec. 17, Simmonds has scored five goals and two assists, doubling his goal total, and giving a team that looked hopeless in terms of secondary scoring months ago a chance to be lethal in that department.
It was not as if "Wayne Train" wasn't capable. He scored 28 goals two seasons ago, and if a lockout-shortened 2013 season spanned 82 games, Simmonds could have replicated that goal total again, scoring 15 goals in 45 games.
Something seemed to be missing, and he has found it. Whatever "it" was.
"We're getting pucks deep, we're driving the net and as a result of that, we've been successful the last few games," he said after Monday's 4-1 win over Minnesota.
Simmonds has fit in well along with Scott Hartnell and Brayden Schenn. Hartnell scored three assists in his last five games, and Schenn tallied two assists in that same span, all-the-while hampered with a sore neck after a violent collision a few games ago.
"We all do the same thing - we play north-south, we get bodies in, we grind on the other team's [defense], and we get pucks to the point and crash the net," Simmonds continued. "I think that's a good recipe and so far it's working."
Simmonds' coach, Craig Berube, agreed.
"In order for that line to be successful they all need to work and play a power game," Berube said Monday.
Simmonds' success has certainly benefitted the power play, too.
Usually mired in an umbrella style with set plays between Kimmo Timonen, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, Simmonds factored into a gorgeous three-way passing play in Monday's victory over Minnesota.
Some were skeptical insofar that a combination of three gritty players on one line would not account for much scoring. Simmonds has turned the table on that belief, consistently hemming teams in their own defensive end and causing headaches for the opposition.
Consider that point of view challenged.
That current line configuration might prove to be a problem once Steve Downie returns from his injury. Vincent Lecavalier will need a new home, and it might force Berube to shake up that once scalding line of Downie, Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
As many coaches would say, it's a good problem to have. Until Downie does return from his injury, that Simmonds-Schenn-Hartnell line will stay intact.
The Flyers will be on the road, jumping from city to city until Jan. 7, needing to find a way to improve what has been a substandard 6-9-4 mark away from Wells Fargo Center. They have dropped six of their last seven games on the road, garnering two pity points from shootout losses.
"Obviously we've been hot at home," Simmonds said. "We just have to carry it on the road and play the same way we have been playing at home."
"We'll be fine."
They will have to be. In three of the last six road games, the Flyers held a lead, or multiple leads, but could not hold on for a win.
"I think we probably got too comfortable and we got a couple goals and I think we can do more than we should be doing," Simmonds said. "If we just keep a simple game as we showed [Monday night], we will be successful."
Not to say that the road trip begins and ends with Simmonds' current hot streak, but continued contributions from him in all situations certainly would not hurt the Flyers' chances on trying to lock up a playoff spot in an atrocious Metropolitan Division over a long road swing.
Of Simmonds' 22 points, 11 have both come at home, and on the road. That split has stayed consistent throughout his time in Philadelphia; so worry not, his production should not dive while wearing the white road unis.
Hockey is a team game, but Simmonds' recent success proves that one player can truly make a huge difference.