After once again giving up five straight goals in the second straight night, the Flyers found themselves down in a hole that seemed insurmountable. It just didn’t seem possible that it could get any worse, but somehow someway it did.
Something clicked with Philadelphia after they were down 6-2. It was as if they realized the only way they were going to have a chance in the all you can eat buffet game of goals was to not let whoever was in net to face a shot. For awhile Bryzgalov didn’t have to worry about getting in the right position because the Flyers were too busy forcing Ondrej Pavelec out of the game with a string of five straight goals to tie the game at six.
Jets backup Chris Mason came in and quickly gave up the 13th combined goal of the game to James van Reimsdyk, which gave the Flyers a 7-6 lead. Jets head coach Claude Noel called a time out to re focus the group and sure enough that time out completely switched the momentum of the game, with a little bit of help from the Flyers.
Nik Antropov fed Alexander Burmistov for the game tying goal after the Flyers could not clear the puck out of their own zone. Then just over a minute later the Mark Stuart got on the board after a wrister blew past Bryz’s five-hole. After two terrible efforts against the Caps and the Habs, it was that goal that set Bryzgalov off. He slammed his stick against the goal post and for the first time showed visible frustration. It would not be the last time that he would have to deal with frustration.
Remarkably van Reimsdyk scored his second goal of the night and the 8th goal for the Flyers to tie the game. Surely this was a game that was destined to go into a shootout that would last ten rounds before someone finally was able to claim the precious two points. Not so fast my friend, Jets captain Andrew Ladd slammed the door right on the orange and black with just over a minute to go in the 3rd period. The 17th combined goal of the game would finally be the last one needed as the Jets pulled out a stunning 9-8 victory.
In the circus there was a lot of problems that came to the forefront for the Flyers.
First off the longer Chris Pronger is out the worse things are going to get. It was going to be a difficult task for a young and gelling team to play anywhere from 10-15 games without their captain and best defenseman, but so far it has just been a ridiculously bad effort from the defense. They flat out played awful in the 5-1 loss in Montreal and against Winnipeg they were just as lethargic at times.
Obviously the bad defensive play is going to result in goals against, but Bryzgalov has every right to be as frustrated as he was after giving up the 8th goal against last night. The combination of bad/odd bounces, anticipating where shots are going to be coming from, bad puck control of his own, have led Bryzgalov to play some of the worst hockey he has ever played. In his last two starts against Washington and Montreal he had the exact same stat line, 23 saves on 28 shots for a .821 SV%, 5 GAA, and he gave up one on the power play. In just over a period and a half of work last night he stopped 6 out of 10 shots and gave up another power play goal.
There are many speculations as to why Bryz has suddenly fallen off of the high horse that was the first week of the season. Perhaps the pressure of playing for a city that cares this much about hockey in October has creeped into his thoughts. That just doesn’t seem likely because he is a smart guy and knew the history of hockey in Philly. I think it is a combination of bad defensive play, some odd bounces and deflections that have slowly taken away his confidence, and just second guessing your instincts. Bryzgalov has lived off of trying to anticipate what was going to happen next on the ice, it has made him a two time Veniza Trophy, but right now he is struggling to find the form that stops anything less than five goals. He is a veteran and needs to become the leader on this team with Pronger away from the ice, I don’t anticipate this bad play to continue and think about this, isn’t it better to have this conversation now rather than have it at the end of April.
The offense found a way to make it out of the doghouse last night, but it took being down four goals twice for someone that doesn’t line up next to Giroux to score. Hopefully last night was the jump start that the rest of the team needed because the offense looked absolutely dominate at times, the type of play that this team is capable of when they become aggressive. There needs to be a continuation of this play Saturday night when the Hurricanes come to town.
It was a wild game to say the least and it is a game that leaves the fans with more questions that will undoubtedly revolve around Ilya Bryzgalov, he just has to go out and start to regain the confidence and presence in net that was evident opening night in Boston.
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