Orange & Black Breakdown
by Marc Siciliano on 03/19/12 at 07:06 PM ET
A little over a month ago, if I would have told you that the Flyers would be heading into this past weekend’s brutal gauntlet of games riding a massive wave of emotional momentum caused by a record setting shutout streak by Ilya Bryzgalov, you probably would have laughed me into internet hibernation until my thirties. Furthermore, the idea of emerging from the weekend with 3 of a possible 4 points and well within striking distance of the #1 seed would have been a ludicrous proposition, especially when you consider how consistently banged up this team has been throughout the line-up as of late.
Yet through all the inconsistencies, the Flyers sit 3 points out of the top seed in the east with 1/8th of their season left to play. Let that sink in while you wait for the rest of this story to load after the jump
ALSO: I’m working with my friends over at Flyers Faithful to put together a SEGA NHL94 tournament, with proceeds set to benefit the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. Tournament participants get a SWEET retro themed shirt, and the winner will take home some cash AND a trophy to signify his mastery of the classics. You can find more information or sign up HERE! (Be advised - you must be in attendance to participate in the tournament. Sega genesis didn’t have system connect, believe it or not…..)
He’s all focus now.
It’s amazing what confidence can do for a player. Regardless of what comes first - the confidence or the saves - Bryzgalov is a new man in the Flyers crease, and he has the Flyers shutout record to prove it. As one of my favorite twitter follows @thegoalieguild pointed out, one of the biggest contributing factors to the turn around can be traced to his activity in the crease.
Lately Bryz is always active, moving around to find new lanes to see the puck and break down the action in front of him. In addition, he is very agressive in coming out to challenge shooters and push from his net towards the shot, taking away net for the shooters to see by decreasing the area they have to shoot at. When he was slumping, he was very lackluster and unsure of himself in his movements, and it led to a lot of those negative goals that you saw that left you scratching your head. With this recently rediscovered work ethic, Bryzgalov’s confidence has risen as quickly as his save percentage.
Bryz kept them in both games this weekend when they were being outplayed; without him 3 out of 4 isnt possible this weekend. In previous games there was no confidence in him to steal those games throughout the fan-base and the organization, but it is slowly becoming expected again. When he holds his ground, it gives the skaters momentum to build off of by understanding that they are still in the game, thus raising the standards on the level of play to a whole new level.
This weekend the Flyers players responded to the stellar play of Bryz in the third period of both games, and even managed to pull a win out of a game against the hottest team in the league. In previous games, these may have turned to ugly losses full of sloppy play all around. Instead, these are the types of efforts that can be used as fuel for the playoffs, especially considering the amount of injuries this team is facing at the moment.
With these injuries, it is important to note the emergence of some of the lesser known rookies on the Flyers squad right now who have filled in admirably. Erik Gustafsson and Eric Wellwood have both been playing particularly well during their current stints with the big club, using the skills that have gotten them to this level to make their presence felt on the game. Wellwood has been able to use his blazing speed in all zones of the ice, and has stood out to me in many of the games he’s played in as one of the Flyers best forwards.If he keeps up this level of play and continues to earn time with guys like Danny Briere and on special teams, he will make it very hard for the organization to scratch him as the playoffs approach.
Gus has proven his worth thus far
Gustafsson is doing much of the same on the back end, using his reliable presence to solidify his role with the team. Surpassing Lilja on the depth chart was inevitable, and with the emergence of Brandon Manning as well, it’s fair to wonder if Lilja will ever be spotted on the back line in orange and black again. If the defense can get healthy (a big IF considering the questionable status of Meszaros), having Gus as a #7 in the playoffs would be a true testament to the depth on the Flyers back end right now. He does cause me to worry with his propensity to be victimized by a big hit, but his play with the puck on his stick is quite admirable for a player with his stature and experience level.
Through all of the positive, there are still improvements to be made for this team to get it clicking on all cylinders. The offense needs to get it together, because they’re projecting passes and becoming far too predictable with their prettiness again. Most recently, they’ve had the most success by getting dirty and physical in front of the net and jamming home rebounds. When the defense converges on the chaos in the crease, this will open up space for those pretty plays in and around the slot as the game wears on. Without the grit and jam in front of the net, there will be no room for guys like Giroux and Danny to make things happen on the perimeter. It all starts with shots on net from the point and outside and converging on the rebounds in front, and the rest will fall into place.
Of the 10 games left in the season, 6 of them take place during the 12 days left in the month of March. 3 of those match-ups are against non playoff teams, and three are against the Panthers, Caps, and Sens, so this is a good chance to make up ground on the Penguins and Rangers against some of the middle of the pack teams. Some of those groups will be hungry and battling for their lives, but others will be ready to call it a season. If they can weather the storm that comes with being a hated opponent (because everyone hates the Flyers) and strike quickly, they can subdue any notion of an upset in the minds of their opponents and likely find themselves in the hunt for the top seed in the East.
It’s been a stellar month thus far for the Flyers, with 17 of a possible 20 points so far. I know it’s my birthday month, but this present is starting to get a little out of hand. With such a vast turn around over the past month and change, it’s no wonder they find themselves back in the discussion as one of the elite teams in the game, and well within striking distance of home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Never enough #bryzgaLOVE these days
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About Orange & Black Breakdown
The Orange & Black Breakdown looks to be the ultimate, around the clock source for news and information on the Philadelphia Flyers organization and it’s ever-present quest for the Stanley Cup. Focusing on what the team can do to achieve success is the ultimate goal.
The OBB is written and maintained by myself - Marc Siciliano. I’m a college graduate and media production professional in the sports industry with credits on projects like Hard Knocks: Bengals and 24/7 Penguins vs. Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic. A man of many hobbies, I always seem to find a way to spend a disproportionate amount of my daily routine with two things: Flyers hockey and social media (much to the dismay of my hockey impartial friends on twitter).
So what does this mean for you? The plan is to combine these
time-wasting habits passions with my love for writing to provide you with complete coverage of the Flyers from both my head and around the web, 24/7.
This is my second writing stint focusing on the Flyers, but for a much larger audience - so do be gentle. Different perspectives and opinions on the organization are welcome and encouraged. Just because I see it one way doesn’t mean I’m beyond seeing it your way as well, so speak up!
I’m always interested in interacting with readers, so find me on twitter (@marcs797) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s talk hockey.
Thanks for reading; Lets go Flyers!