Gritty Wayne Simmonds Proving To Be A Warrior For Philadelphia Flyers

March 29, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (17) juggles the puck before the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

Simmonds has hit career-high marks in almost every offensive category this year, and the burgeoning power forward's grit and combativeness combine to make up a special kind of player for the Orange-and-Black.

Throughout the 44-year history of the Philadelphia Flyers, there have been many players to don the Orange-and-Black to carry the moniker of a true 'warrior'.

One of the most recent is forward Ian Laperriere, who took two point blank slap shots off his face during the 2009-10 season, and remains on long-term injured reserve while suffering the affects of post-concussion syndrome.

While several players from the current roster exude the on-ice warrior personna during each game, Wayne Simmonds may just be one of the most fearless skaters in the NHL these days.

He had taken a puck to the face during warmups prior to a mid-February tilt with the Buffalo Sabres, receiving 25 stitiches and having two teeth knocked loose. Simmonds played that game and despite wearing a full face shield, notched two goals in a 7-2 Philadelphia win.

Simmonds was again bloodied by a puck in Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators, this time by a Brayden Schenn shot. The first-year Flyer ended up with the 26th goal of his breakout season as the puck caromed off the bridge of his nose and past goaltender Craig Anderson, went to the locker room to receive get stitched up, then returned to play the remainder of the contest.

"I'm alright, I'm good," he said after the game. "I saw it coming, but there’s not much I could really do."

Simmonds' teammates were scared it may have been a serious injury at first, but in the end was able to joke about it.

"That was pretty scary," said defenseman Braydon Coburn. "That's one way to score a goal, I guess, but your heart kind of stops for a second when you see that. Especially when you grab your face and there is lots of blood."

"Yeah, he's obviously a warrior and we were kind of scared a little bit there," said Claude Giroux after Saturday's game. "We were hoping it wasn't his eye, but he's obviously a tough guy and he finds a way to get it in the net. Even with his face."

Simmonds may have taken the next step to entering into Philly folklore during Sunday's thrilling 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. With his face still swollen and stitches still intact from the previous day's incident, the 23-year-old Scarborough, Ontario-native came to the aid of Schenn, who was the late-game target of several Penguins for an earlier retaliatory shot to the back of superstar Sidney Crosby.

Not only did Simmonds step in to protect Schenn, he fought one of the most feared heavyweights in the League in the process in Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland. With stitiches from the day before still in his face.

Warrior.

.

The Kid Can Score Goals, too -- And In Bunches

He also had scored a power play goal early in the third period to give the Flyers an important 3-2 lead, their first of the afternoon after trailing 2-0 early on. It was the fourth straight contest with at least one goal and the 27th of the year for Simmonds, whose previous career-high total was 16 in 2009-10 with the Los Angeles Kings.

Included in his total for this year are 10 power play goals and four game-winners.

Simmonds is obviously a streaky scorer. The recent goal outburst followed a 16-game goalless drought, which was preceeded by a stretch where he had tallied nine times in a 10-game span.

After scoring just four times in his first 24 games in Philadelphia, Simmonds now has 23 goals in his last 55 games. His presence in the corners and in front of opposing netminders -- especially with the Flyers skating with a man advantage -- has provided invaluable for a club that had been too small on the wings until this past summer. Simmonds was among a group of flanks to be brought in to rectify what had been badly exposed as a weakness by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Power Forward In The Making

Simmonds always exhibited the potential to become a true power forward in his time in with the Kings, but things just never seemed to come together all at once for him the way they have this season.

As he has already done with goals (27) and points (48) this year, it also appears that Simmonds will threaten to break his career-high for penalty minutes accrued during the course of a season. His top mark is 116, and his current total of 110 has him poised to set a new threshold.

The blend of skill and raw power is a combination that works for a Flyers' team that thrives on hard-fought competiton and winning battles, and it will come in handy as the regular season reaches its final week and the postseason rolls around.

Because when it comes down to it, Simmonds is exactly the type of warrior the Flyers have needed to acheive their ultimate success.

***************************************************************************************

Just minutes after the posting of this article, Simmonds was named the NHL's First Star for the week ending April 1st. Below is the official NHL press release:

***************************************************************************************

SIMMONDS, CHARA AND SMITH NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK


NEW YORK (April 2, 2012) – Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne
Simmonds, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and Phoenix Coyotes
goaltender Mike Smith have been named the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ for the week
ending April 1.

FIRST STAR – WAYNE SIMMONDS, RW, PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Simmonds scored in four straight games, totaling five goals and one
assist as the Flyers (46-24-9, 101 points) moved within one point of the
Pittsburgh Penguins for the fourth seed, and home-ice advantage, in the
Eastern Conference. He scored once in a 5-3 loss against the Tampa Bay
Lightning March 26, recorded two goals and an assist in a 7-1 victory at
the Toronto Maple Leafs March 29, deflected a shot in off his face in a 4-3
shootout loss against the Ottawa Senators March 31 and closed the week with
a goal in a 6-4 triumph at the Pittsburgh Penguins April 1. In his first
season with the Flyers, the 23-year-old has established career highs in
goals (27) and points (48) in 79 games.

SECOND STAR – ZDENO CHARA, D, BOSTON BRUINS

Chara tied for League lead with seven assists as the Bruins (47-28-4,
98 points) earned seven out of eight points to clinch their third Northeast
Division title in the last four seasons and the second seed in the Eastern
Conference. He collected three assists in a 5-2 victory against the Tampa
Bay Lightning March 27, one helper in a 3-2 shootout loss against the
Washington Capitals March 29, two assists in a 6-3 win at the New York
Islanders March 31 and his 40th assist of the season in a 2-1 victory at
the New York Rangers April 1. The 2008-09 James Norris Memorial Trophy
winner has 12-40—52 in 77 games, and has established career highs in
assists and points.

THIRD STAR – MIKE SMITH, G, PHOENIX COYOTES

Smith posted two shutouts in two starts as the Coyotes (39-27-13, 91
points) won both of their games to remain in the hunt for the Pacific
Division title. He stopped 38 shots in a 2-0 victory against the San Jose
Sharks March 29 and made 44 saves in a 4-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks
March 31. Smith hasn’t allowed a goal in 139:59 dating to March 24. The
30-year-old is 35-18-10 with a 2.29 goals-against average, .927 save
percentage and seven shutouts in 64 appearances, and has established career
highs in wins, shutouts and games played.

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