Thursday, March 08, 2012

Blank Expression: Bryzgalov's play fuels Flyers win over Panthers

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Given the twists and turns through the first three-quarters of the season, it's difficult to say with any certainty that Ilya Bryzgalov has turned a corner, or has shown us all what he's capable of doing.

Nonetheless, it's hard to argue with results. Bryzgalov notched his second shutout in three starts on Thursday, stopping 28 shots in all as the Philadelphia Flyers exacted a bit of poetic justice and took down the Florida Panthers by a 5-0 count.

Bryzgalov improved to 7-2-1 with three blankings over his last 11 starts, and recorded his 27th career shutout. He's also 1-0 since silencing CSN's John Boruk for Boruk's Tuesday post-game attempt at once again trying to assess the Russian's confidence.

"He seems pretty locked in right now. He’s preparing, he’s going out there, he’s executing, and then he gets ready for the next one," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette.

It was a more impressive feat given the state of the defense, decimated (or so it seemed) with the absences of Kimmo Timonen, Pavel Kubina and Andrej Meszaros. Jakub Voracek also missed the game with an upper-body injury and Jaromir Jagr was limited with lingering groin issues.

Speaking of silencing, there were a few landmarks reached.

Thursday's victory marked Philadelphia's first home shutout of Florida since a 2-0 win on October 24, 1999 -- when John Vanbiesbrouck bested Sean Burke with a 33-save performance -- and proved to be the club's first regular-season regulation shutout at home since a 2-0 decision over the Rangers on January 21, 2010.

Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Scott Hartnell, Jagr and Eric Wellwood all lit the lamp for the Flyers, who have won four in a row and six of eight.

Jose Theodore allowed five goals on 35 shots for the Panthers, who have lost three of four.

The Flyers got on the board with 9:25 to play in the opening period, thanks to a bit of unexpected luck. Claude Giroux's pass from the left wing near the boards into the slot was intended for Hartnell, and though he totally fanned on the shot, Schenn was there in the right circle to sweep it home.

Read doubled the advantage when his poke through a goalmouth scramble slid home at 3:06 of the second period. Wayne Simmonds did his usual damage and disruption from atop the crease, and got in a few whacks of his own before Read picked up his rookie-leading 19th goal of the season.

Hartnell finally atoned for his earlier gaffe and made it 3-0 on a breakaway down the left wing culminating in a wrister just under the crossbar with 7:11 to play in the second. The point was also his 60th of the season, tying his career best from 2008-09.

"I think a lot of things are coming together on the ice," Hartnell admitted. "Even though we've had some injuries and stuff, it seems like we're playing tighter defensively, not doing too many fancy plays and we're scoring some goals as well."

Despite starting the game on the fourth line with the seldom-used Jody Shelley and playing just over 10 minutes, Jagr managed to crank up some offense when he beat Theodore from between the circles on a power play at the 2:35 mark of the third.

Wellwood capped the scoring when he broke free up the middle off an Erik Gustafsson dish for a 5-0 game with 1:27 to play.

The final was an appropriate tally given Florida's 5-0 embarrassment of the Flyers last year in the club's final home game before Christmas.

"We have to find a way to score goals. We can sit there and diddle around and try and find words, but we have to have a concerted effort to go and score goals," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen, whose club suffered its second sizeable shutout loss in four games. "It's tough. Our special teams didn't play well early on."

Notes: Michael Leighton posted the last home regulation shutout, turning aside the Montreal Canadiens for a second straight time in a 3-0 win on May 18, 2010 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals...It was also the club's first regular-season regulation shutout victory since a 2-0 decision over the Rangers on January 21, 2010...Philadelphia forward Danny Briere played in his 800th NHL contest, but despite his two-assist night, his goal drought extended to 21 games...Flyers GM Paul Holmgren revealed before the game that winger James van Riemsdyk's foot surgery was successful and that the timeline of 4-6 weeks is still accurate...To offset some of the injury issues, the Flyers recalled forward Harry Zolnierczyk and defenseman Brandon Manning from Adirondack (AHL)...The Panthers scratched forward Kris Versteeg.

No comments: