Better With Popcorn

Flyers Turn in Playoff Effort in Shutout Win over Caps

Sunday, Kimmo Timonen’s consecutive game streak ended at 248 games. Fellow defenseman Andrej Meszaros was also ruled out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. James van Riemsdyk was on the shelf for 6-8 weeks with a foot injury.

The Flyers? Well, they made due without.

Philadelphia turned in a playoff-like performance in a 1-0 win over the Capitals in Washington.

How’d they do it? They blocked shots, much-maligned goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was flawless, and the call-up for van Riemsdyk, Eric Wellwood, scored the game’s only goal.

It was an impressive victory for a team who looked like they had lost the ability to win back-to-back games last month. The Flyers faced a hungry and desperate team in Washington and turned them away time after time.

While plenty can be said for Bryzgalov’s stellar netminding, the Flyers did him all the favors they could. New additions Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina combined for 10 hits on the night.

Kubina was especially impressive, showing his ability to outlet the puck with precision.

The shutout (Bryzgalov’s third of the season), wasn’t the only rarity the Flyers pulled off on Sunday. They managed to stay at even strength the entire game. The team’s only penalty came after Washington forward Troy Brouwer fought Scott Hartnell.

On top of the steady play, the team rolled all four lines to the tune of the fourth group hitting 11 minutes of ice time.

They also showed that the defensive depth may have been better than was perceived when the team added two blueliners at the deadline.

Andreas Lilja and Erik Gustafsson will never be confused for Bobby Orr and Mark Howe, but having experience all season made them capable replacements with Meszaros and Timonen out.

Offensively, Philadelphia didn’t overwhelm Washington by any stretch of the imagination. However, they got the meaningful tally in the second period when Wellwood had his stick on the ice.

Kubina fired the puck and Wellwood deflected it home for the game winner.

It was a no-nonsense game, and the Flyers got the better of it. Despite being outshot 34-23, Philadelphia was rarely hemmed in their own zone. They hit on the forecheck and they finished their checks.

They were sound defensively and quick to leave the zone. All in all, it was the type of collective effort that they’ll need down the stretch and in the postseason.

Many Flyers fans have wondered where this type of performance has been all season. In the last nine games before Sunday’s contest, the Flyers were scored on first. Often times, the first tally came early.

In Washington, they simply came out to play and maintained their intensity throughout. Or as Coach Peter Laviolette calls it, their ‘jam’.

The Flyers might not play as well as they did Sunday on Tuesday night when they host the Red Wings. They might not be as sound as they were against the Capitals for the rest of the season.

However, they proved they are capable of winning the battles and playing the way that is essential if a team hopes to win in the playoffs.

Overcoming adversity in the lineup? Check. Holding an opponent scoreless? Check. Staying off the penalty kill? Check.

With the checklist in the black for at least a day, the Flyers provided a glimpse of what they can be capable of when it matters.

In Philadelphia, that’s quite a relief.



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iScoop's picture

Nice piece Mark. The Flyers' performance today did not really surprise me though as I have seen this happen many times before over the past 40 years. A team that faces unexpected adversity such as a spate of sudden injuries to key players will often "suck it up" and improve their performance as a group to overcome it. The key to watch for is if they can sustain that over time. Tuesday's meeting with Detroit will be a good indicator both because of the stiff opposition they will face and the emotion of the Mark Howe number retirement before the game.