When Michael Del Zottowent top shelf on Rangers goalie Cam Talbot Saturday night, his short-handed goal would wind up being the game-winner, and potentially a season saver for the desperate Flyers.
They are a team that was supposed to be better, and they finally are. It’s a trend that reflects Del Zotto’s development on an individual level.
“I think his first few years he did a good job and put up some good numbers and then whatever happened in New York,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “But this summer he was committed, and he came into camp in real good shape, and he definitely wanted to prove something.”
After bursting on the scene with the Rangers a few years ago, “something went sour,” as Del Zotto put it to reporters, and he was traded to the Predators at the end of last season.
But the Flyers inked him to a contract before 2014-15, expecting him to return to form. And though it’s taken a while, he has become a top-line defenseman for Philly on a defense that has glaring weaknesses.
“I think he’s a highly confident player for sure,” Berube said, “but I think the one thing we stressed here and stressed it with him is you have to play good defense, and he’s done that.”
A win against a top divisional team and rival like the Rangers helps, but the Flyers are still six points behind the Bruins for the final playoff spot.
They’re still alive, and Del Zotto will play hard every shift until the Flyers are statistically eliminated from contention.
“It’s the best time of year when you’re competing for a playoff spot,” He said. “It’s a ton of fun and we were excited after the win tonight.”
The 24-year-old and his teammates can’t help but scoreboard watch as the stretch run continues with a home date against the Flames Tuesday. But there’s nothing he can do about the Bruins (and Panthers, also in the hunt for the final spot).
“If we take care of our games that’s all we can do,” Del Zotto said.