Better With Popcorn

Bryz struggles again in 4-2 Loss to Preds

The next few days are going to be full of debate.

Following the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators, more fuel was added to the goaltender fire as Ilya Bryzgalov returned as the starting goalie.

Following two strong efforts by Sergei Bobrovsky, Bryzgalov was given an opportunity to display his talents.

Instead, more questions arose about his weaknesses.

Following a hooking penalty to Harry Zolnierczyk in the final minutes of the first period, the league’s second ranked power play went to work.

With a screen in place, Martin Erat attempted a shot but failed to connect. After the false start, he regained the puck and put a bouncing shot on net, which knuckled past Bryzgalov to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Flyers picked up their pace in the second.

Their offensive attacks became more dynamic as they mixed long range shots with down-hill drives to the net.

Unfortunately, their chances were all for naught as the Predators were the ones to score again.

Following a roughing penalty, Brayden Schenn exited the penalty box and gathered a loose puck in the Flyers defensive zone and quickly turned it over to Gabriel Bourque.

After Bourque stripped the puck, Sergei Kostitsyn gathered it and fired a shot through traffic that beat Bryzgalov high over his left shoulder to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

While one Flyers rookie struggled, another continued to thrive.

Sean Couturier has scored goals in three consecutive games. On Saturday, he extended that streak to four with the aide of a pass from Wayne Simmonds, which the rookie masterfully placed high over Pekka Rinne’s right shoulder.

After providing some spirited play, head coach Peter Laviolette decided to move Couturier onto the third line so that he could play with Simmonds and Matt Read.

The move paid off in the third.

With the Flyers moving the puck around the Nashville zone, Read dove at a puck to keep the Flyers attack alive and managed to put it on goal. The shot created a healthy rebound which Simmonds quickly put into the net to cut the Predators lead to 3-2.

Ultimately, the third line was the shinning moment of this game for the Flyers. They continually led drives into the offensive zone and consistently looked like the best players on the ice.

Both Simmonds and Couturier continued goal streaks.

On the other side of the rink, Bryzgalov failed to convincingly win back his job.

While he looked good at some points, it was the times that he didn’t look his best that loomed largest.

On the third Nashville goal, the team put the puck in off of a deflection during a 3-on-2 rush.

While one could excuse the play as a lucky bounce, it’s hard not to acknowledge that Bryzgalov should have protected his five-hole better. This is now the second consecutive start where he has allowed a soft goal between his legs.

In addition, he looked like he struggled to track the puck throughout the night and looked out of rhythm for long stretches of time.

Much of the debate is going to be about whether the defense is to blame for the problems that have arisen with Bryzgalov.

While plenty of evidence can be put forth for both sides the answer still falls somewhere in between.

The defense has played poorly regardless of whom the starting goaltender is. They allow too many odd-man rushes and fail to clear the front of the net.

However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that Bryzgalov needs to play better.

To put it simply, he has been terrible.

Whether he is making himself too small, leaving his five-hole unprotected or playing without confidence, he needs to find someway to keep the puck out of the net.

And he needs to find it fast.


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Mark Trible's picture

Laviolette is certainly in a tricky position here. Obviously Bob is the better goalie at this point in the season, but he's going to keep giving Bryz starts in hopes he figures it out.

George Prax's picture

Bryz is going to have to figure it out at some point or another. There's little more goalie shuffling the Flyers will be able to do.