Better With Popcorn

Bryz carries Flyers to 1-0 shootout win over Leafs

More often than not, the Philadelphia Flyers win games with their offense.

With 218 ‘goals for’ this season and ten players with double digit goal totals, there are usually swarms of players in orange and black on the verge of lighting the lamp on a nightly basis.

However, that wasn’t the case in the team’s Saturday 1-0 shoout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Despite attempting 27 shots on goal, the Flyers failed to score a single goal in regulation.

In a general sense, the team failed to create second chance opportunities, which enabled the Maple Leafs to quickly transition out of the defensive zone and generate opportunities of their own.

The Flyers seemed to over complicate things.

The team made poor decisions with their passes and lacked foresight when trying to develop structures in the offensive zone. Instead of getting pucks to the net and grinding out chances, the team appeared to try to create ‘pretty’ plays along the outside.

This made Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson’s job fairly simple, he merely had to stand in front of pucks.

Saturday night was probably the easiest shutout of his young career (that is until Claude Giroux unleashed one of the filthiest goals in the history of the shootout against him).

Earlier in the season, a performance like this probably would have resulted in a loss.

However, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov once again stole the show.

For the third time in four games, Bryzgalov shutout the team’s opponent and for the second time this week has taken the team onto his back and stolen a win.

Utilizing expert positioning, poise and perseverance, the rehabilitated goaltender eliminated any thought of the Leafs scoring a goal and continued a shutout streak that now stands at 136 minutes.

The most noteworthy element of Bryzgalov’s game came in the shootout. Not only did he shutout the Leafs in 65 minutes of play, he also shutout all three of the their shootout shooters.

Considering how poorly he faired in the glorified skills competition earlier this season (at one point failing to stop a single shot in two combined efforts), his ability to shut the door on the Leafs is that much more impressive.

In the first period, the game had a back-and-forth feel with both teams exchanging scoring chances. More track meet, than hockey game, the two teams went into the second looking to settle things down.

 In the second, the Leafs picked up their play and started to generate chances.

They carried that play into the third and consistently peppered the Flyers goal. From there, those same opportunities carried to overtime.

Despite the varying degrees of attacks coming from the Leafs, Bryzgalov remained the same.

In some instances, he was lucky that he had a post standing by his side.

Of course at the same time, that luck was largely the by-product of good positioning by the 6’3” goaltender. By using his large frame, Bryzgalov cut down on angles for the Leafs shooters.

With the exception of executing a perfect shot, Toronto was not going to get any cheap goals.

Thats why they finished the night failing to get a single puck past Bryzgalov.

The one disappointing element for the Flyers was the performance by their offense.

Of course, considering how successful they’ve been this season (especially coming off a 5-0 win in their last game), they deserve a pass every now and then.

Really, the only thing that matters is that the team picked up two big points against an opponent who desperately needed them.

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