Wayne Simmonds (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds scored twice Saturday to help Philadelphia clinch the final Eastern Conference playoff berth. Simmonds netted the game-tying and game-winning goal, and the Flyers will now meet the Washington Capitals in the first round.
The Boston Bruins’ loss Saturday afternoon set up a win-and-in situation for the Flyers, and with the post-season only two points away, Philadelphia was hoping for one good effort to put them into the playoffs. On a team-wide basis, the Flyers produced, but no players stood out quite like Wayne Simmonds, who stepped up and has Philadelphia readying for the playoffs.
Simmonds, 27, has been an offensive juggernaut for the Flyers all season, and with the potential to earn Philadelphia a playoff berth Saturday, he made the most of his chances. In the first frame, after the Flyers had fallen behind on a goal by the Penguins’ Nick Bonino, Simmonds used his speed and reach to knot the score following a slick feed from Jakub Voracek.
Scoring only the game-tying goal would have made Simmonds a momentary hero in the City of Brotherly Love, but he assured fans would be chanting his name throughout the city well into the night in the second frame when he made an outstanding play to deflect a Shayne Gostisbehere shot past Penguins netminder Jeff Zatkoff to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead:
Simmonds’ second goal stood as the game-winning marker, and the Flyers dominated the remainder of the contest. Steve Mason turned aside every puck that came his way throughout the second and third periods to land Philadelphia the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
It’d be hard to call this Simmonds’ breakout season as he’s consistently been a 30-goal threat since coming to Philadelphia in 2011-12, but the consistency with which he continues to perform has turned Simmonds into a fan favorite and one of the most important pieces of this Flyers roster. It was fitting that Simmonds, who leads the Flyers in goal scoring by six following Saturday, would be the one to notch the two most important goals of the year, too. Simmonds’ two-goal game gives him 32 on the season and 60 points on the campaign to tie a career high.
The game was iced in the final minute of the third frame when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare notched an empty-netter for his seventh goal of the season. The Flyers skated away with the 3-1 victory.
Thanks to Philadelphia’s win Saturday, they’ve now clinched a playoff berth in Game 81 of their season, meaning coach Dave Hakstol can, if he so chooses, rest some of his players ahead of what is sure to be a hard-fought post-season series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.