A case could be made both forward Jonathan Huberdeau and goaltender Jacob Markstrom had their best games of the season when the Calgary Flames beat the red-hot New York Rangers on Saturday.
Now, the onus is on the Flames, and specifically that duo, to build on that performance when they play host to the struggling Philadelphia Flyers on Monday afternoon.
The Flames remain in the thick of the playoff chase, but have won consecutive games only twice since the start of January. A big reason for the lack of the success has been the struggles of Huberdeau and Markstrom.
Against the Rangers, Huberdeau collected two assists, including the overtime winner in their 3-2 victory, while Markstrom’s performance was much closer to last year’s top-tier level, even though he only faced 20 shots.
“That’s how I’ve gotta play for the rest of the year,” said Huberdeau, who collected 115 points last season for the Florida Panthers but has only 38 this season. “Sometimes, you don’t think you have it in you. (Saturday) showed that I still have it and I can make some plays and play well. It’s going to bring the confidence back, and that’s what I need.”
Huberdeau has clicked lately skating on a line with Nazem Kadri and rookie Jakob Pelletier. Markstrom won for just the second time since Jan. 6.
The question is whether the Flames and two of their key parts are capable of piling up a stream of big-time performances. They all know the importance of cobbling together a winning streak.
“It’s a playoff game every game for us,” Calgary forward Mikael Backlund said. “We can’t afford to lose too many more. We have to go on a streak here and bring it every night and we’ll have a really good chance to win games.”
The Flyers are having an even harder time finding the win column. Philadelphia has dropped the first two outings of its four-game road trip, both by 6-2 scores, the most recent defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
The Flyers, who were thumped by the Seattle Kraken two days earlier to kick off the sojourn, are winless in their last four games and on a 2-5-3 skid that has all but dashed the playoff hopes that were charged by a strong stretch into late January.
With 25 games remaining in the regular season, Philadelphia is nine points back of a playoff spot and needing to vault a half-dozen squads to jump into a wild-card spot. A first step is to snap this losing skid.
“We’ve got to find a way here to even up this road trip and continue to have belief,” said forward Scott Laughton. “I know a lot of guys do, and we’ll keep pushing.”
Unlike the Seattle game, the Flyers were actually in the thick of the fight against the Canucks, who are even further out of a playoff position. Philadelphia pulled within 3-2 late in the second period when Morgan Frost snapped a 10-game goal drought, but couldn’t find the equalizer before the Canucks doubled the lead midway through the third period and then netted a pair of empty-net goals.
“I thought that there was no quit even though you can look at the score, how it ended up. It’s not a reflection of the game,” Travis Konecny said. “We worked really hard, we believed in ourselves and they just had a few more bounces that ended up in net.”
–Field Level Media