Shutdown performance a sign of potential
It hasn’t happened often, but it was certainly worth the wait.
Following the Philadelphia Flyers impressive 1-0 win on Sunday night against the Washington Capitals, the team finally displayed that they are capable of shutting down an opponent’s offense.
More often than not, the team wins games by playing an up-tempo brand of hockey that offers high risks but even higher rewards.
Realistically, as the regular season continues to creep closer to the postseason, that kind of strategy will cause problems when teams begin to implement a tighter style of play that focuses on defense and checking.
When push comes to shove, the Flyers haven’t proven that they can win those kind of tight games.
That of course was before Sunday night.
In what was arguably the Flyers best defensive game of the season, the defense out-shinned the offense for the first time all year.
Then there was Ilya Bryzgalov.
Coming into Philadelphia with a target on his back long before he ever played a game, the Russian goaltender has largely disappointed in the city of brotherly love.
While some have excused Bryzgalov’s subpar play, there is no denying that there are 51 million reasons why the dissenting fans have had a right to feel outrage.
With excuses ranging across the gambit, the simple fact remained the same that regardless of defense, system, or city, Bryzgalov was brought to Philadelphia to be the clean-up man. He was supposed to come into town and steal games.
Sunday night he did just that.
Utilizing poise, positioning and persistence, Bryzgalov supplied the injury depleted Flyers with a calming presence that harkened back to his brighter days in Phoenix.
His ability to track the puck enabled him to make save after save, which resulted in his stopping all 34 shots faced. Bryzgalov is now only the third Flyers goaltender since the lockout to record at least three shutouts in a season.
He also supplied his supporters a shinning opportunity to say to his doubters, ‘I told you so.’
Of course, it must be noted that the win came against a Capitals team that has now been held scoreless in two consecutive games.
Does that blemish the Flyers defensive performance? Not in the slightest.
In past games, the team has played down to their opponents or failed to step on their throats while they had them down for the count.
On Sunday, the Flyers smothered every chance the Capitals had and took advantage of a team that is down on their luck.
For a group that has lofty goals come playoff time, the Flyers most recent games have displayed a team that appears to be inconsistent.
However, it could also be the case of a young team (both in age and in time played together) going through growing pains to learn to win together.
While it may be a bit of a stretch, it’s something to consider.
After being shutout in Edmonton, the team battled back from a three-goal deficit in Calgary only to be shutout for a second time in three games by San Jose. They then followed that up by falling behind early to the New York Islanders only to explode with a six-goal night.
The team capped that all off with the shutdown performance in Washington.
It’s been erratic, but isn’t that what the postseason is going to be like? Will there not be games where the team will win big only to be shutdown the next night?
Every night will be a new challenge in April and the team is going to need to find a new way to win every night.
Sunday was a prime example that the Flyers are able to do that.
This of course doesn’t mean that there won’t be more bumps along the road or that Bryzgalov will be lights out from here on out.
No, Sunday night should not become the expected result of the team’s remaining games.
However, it should be used as a benchmark as to the full extent of the Flyers’ potential; one that could make them a very dangerous team come playoff time.
That would truly be something Flyers fans are willing to wait for.
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