Better With Popcorn

Niemi Wins Goalie Battle at "The Tank"

There is nothing more frustrating than sandwiching a win in between two shut out losses. 

After a 2-0 loss in Edmonton and a huge 5-4 comeback win in Calgary, the offense disappeared again, dropping 1-0 to the Sharks in San Jose Tuesday night.

There was one huge bright spot in the game though and it came in the form of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. 

Not even 90 seconds into the game, this game had the makings of a Bryz-aster. The Flyers turned over the puck in the offensive zone and San Jose's Ryan Clowe ripped a wrister past Bryzgalov for a quick 1-0 lead.

With that being said, it wound up being the one tally that made all the difference in this game. But be that it may, Bryzgalov picked himself up and played one of the best games he had all season, despite being on the losing side.

Bryzgalov kept the Flyers in the entire game with his fantastic play. Making one big stop after another, especially in the last two periods, Bryzgalov waited patiently for his offense to beat Sharks goalie Anti Niemi.

Bryzgalov stopped 22 of 23 shots in the loss but he was outperformed by Niemi. Niemi, who shut down the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals as a member of the Chicago Black Hawks two years ago, stopped all 26 shots faced.

Niemi should have been beaten though. Countless times the Sharks netminder left juicy rebounds on the table as well as an open net when knocked out of the play. But his defense, some lucky breaks and even quick whistles from the refs helped bail him out.

Excuses aside, the offense let Bryzgalov down. The top line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr registered a total of two shots with Giroux being shut out all game.

Only once all game (the first period) did the Flyers register double-digit shots. 26 total shots for a team with one of the top offenses in the NHL is completely inexcusable, and it's a team lack of effort that is the cause of that.

Focus, or the lack there of, became another factor in the loss. Perhaps it could have been the frustrations that mounted all game. 

Twice winger Danny Briere was on the receiving end of a cheap-shot, the second coming by way of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic slammed Briere head first into the boards, dropping the winger to the ice. The play did not draw a penalty, a huge turn of events that should have presented the Flyers with a power play chance late in the game.

In turn, it led to scrambled play mixed in with attempts to get at Vlasic for redemption rather than trying to set up a shot at winning the game.

But all the negativity aside, the Flyers should still look at the positives from this game. The biggest problem all season has been goaltending, and for one night, Bryzgalov put that worry at the back of everyone's minds.

And with the Flyers done out west, the travel is cut down and the team could hopefully refocus itself for a late season push.

Time to go home and regroup, there's another quarter of the season left.