Wayne Simmonds zigged-zagged over the blue line and fired a soft wrister from at least 50 feet away on Panthers goalie James Reimer during Tuesday’s 3-2 thrilling overtime victory.
The harmless shot somehow found twine, though, as it skirted over Reimer’s glove and into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1 late in the first period. Consider it an early Christmas gift from the Florida netminder, who no doubt wanted that one back.
However, it’s been that kind of season for Simmonds.
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He’s scoring ugly goals like the one last game, garbage goals in front of the net and goals that have either tied the game or put the Flyers ahead, but most importantly, he’s scoring a lot of them.
Entering Thursday’s home game against the Oilers, Simmonds has a team-high 15 goals, including a pair in each of the last two games for the Flyers, who are riding a six-game winning streak.
After tallying a career-high 32 last season, Simmonds is on pace to hit 44 goals this year. The last Flyer to eclipse 40 markers was Jeff Carter with 46 in 2009.
“I am playing with great line mates, great teammates,” said Simmonds. “I am just trying to get pucks up and get to the net and do what I can do to help out the team. It is definitely not all me, I can say that.”
Simmonds spent most of last year on the first line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. This season, he’s mostly been on the second line with Travis Konecny and either centers Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn, and remains on the first power-play unit.
Through Tuesday’s games, he was tied for third in the league with the Bruin’s David Pastrnak in goals scored and is ranked 10th in points. The 28-year-old leads the league with eight power play goals and his 13 power play points trail only Giroux for tops in the NHL.
“I think you are seeing a very confident player right now, a very competitive player and a very focused player,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s been very important for our group here, especially in the first third of the season, and that is going to continue.”
And if he does, Simmonds will almost certainly find himself selected to his first All-Star Game next month in Los Angeles.
“He deserves it 100 percent,” said Voracek, who provided the game-winner with 8.6 seconds left in OT on Tuesday. “He’s two goals shy of the leading the league but it’s his overall game — he’s killing [penalties] well, he’s playing defense really well, he’s scoring on the power play [and] he’s scoring on five-on-five. You know, I think he’s our best and he’s been our MVP so far.”