Better With Popcorn

Back-to-Backs Prove to Be Frustrating For the Flyers

The shortened season has certainly had an effect around the league this year.

Players have been getting hurt and the fatigue factor has been settling in despite not even being half way through the season. The biggest factor in the fatigue has been all of the back-to-back games being played.

They've been especially hard on the Flyers, who fell to 2-4-0 in those games after getting drubbed 5-2 at the hands of the Panthers on Thursday.

A part of the lackadaisical performance could be attributed to the emotionally-charged 6-5 win in Pittsburgh the previous night. The trip itself between the Steel City and Philadelphia wasn't exhausting.

"Coming off a big win like that, it’s something you have to deal with for an hour or two and just keep looking forward to the next game," said Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann after the game. "With games every other night, you need to try and keep an even keel emotionally, even if you lost. Be humble and keep working. Just because you win a few games you can’t get carried away."

The Flyers have played six back-to-back games and have been out-scored 24-13 in the second game.  In three of those six games, they allowed five goals, all losses.

"It is what it is, the schedule is not...," said head coach Peter Laviolette. "You know the game last night was hard fought, we came back, we want to prepare and get ourselves in a situation to win another hockey game and it was an important game tonight. It was evident in the first ten minutes that they weren’t as sharp, we weren’t as crisp as we were last night."

It was difficult to tell if that was the case for the Flyers in this game. They mimicked their opening effort against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, allowing three goals in the opening 11 minutes.

They couldn't climb out of the early hole, partly due to the stellar play of Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen foiled the Flyers numerous times in the game, stopping 32 shots.

The Flyers still managed to out-play the Panthers in the game, out-shooting them 34-26. In fact, the Flyers had 39 other shots that didn't reach Clemmensen (23 were blocked, 16 missed the net).

It's hard to tell if a different goaltender in net for the Flyers would have changed anything. Many speculated that Brian Boucher would make his second start of the season and were shocked when it was anounced that Ilya Bryzgalov would be making the start instead.

Bryzgalov, coming off a poor game against the Penguins in which he allowed five goals on 32 shots, looked completely tired. He gave up four goals in this game, stopping only 11 of the 15 shots he faced before being yanked midway through the second.

Bryzgalov looked out of it from the opening face off. On the very first shot attempted, Dmitry Kulikov found iron and the puck trickled behind Bryzgalov, who turned at the last second to cover the puck while it lay on the goal mouth.

A few minutes later, he just barely got a piece of an easy shot with his glove and the puck careened off the side of the net.

After that, Bryzgalov proceeded to let in four bad goals. The first two were softies that beat him stick side. The third was on a penalty shot that beat him five hole. Immediately after letting up the goal, he threw his stick into the glass.

The stick-throwing continued for Bryzgalov, who launched his stick down the tunnel after being pulled in the second period. Being beaten twice by 19-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau certainly got the best of Bryzgalov's emotions.

"I was mad because I just missed him on a poke check," said Bryzgalov in reference to the penalty shot. "I knew he was through it, between the legs, I couldn’t regroup quick enough and it was three-nothing and two-nothing it’s a big difference. I almost had it then it was in the net and I am so upset."

The first three goals couldn't all be pitted on Bryzgalov. Twice the scoring opportunities were a result of a Florida player getting behind the defense and creating 1-on-0 chances with Bryzgalov.

Tomas Kopecky's goal to make it 2-0 was the result of a turnover created by Mike Weaver. Weaver hit Kopecky in stride, who was behind the Flyers defense when he got the puck. 

Huberdeau made it 3-0 when he drew a penalty shot after blowing past the Flyers defense.

"I think we were a little loose in the beginning... They snuck behind us a few times," said right winger Mike Knuble. "There was a penalty shot situation. It’s just not what you need in the first five minutes. We need to try and keep it steady, get the game going and get the forecheck going. It becomes a little bit of mind over matter starting out the game."


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