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Flyers Ride Great Start, Chase Ryan Miller and Hold Off Sabres

Nov 2, 2011, 11:55 PM EDT

Coming into Wednesday night's Flyers-Sabres game in Buffalo, Ryan Miller was had lost his previous three starts, with Buffalo's only win in its last four games commune with Jonas Enroth in net. The all-world goalie (you apparently can't talk about Miller without saying "all-world") wouldn't survive the first period against the Flyers, with the visitors putting three of their first ten shots past him before Lindy Ruff turned the game over to Enroth. The change in net (and presumably a Ruffing up in the intermission) revitalized the Sabres, who got their act together to start the second and eventually score the game's next two goals. Ceding momentum, the Flyers weren't able to beat Enroth at all, but they managed to keep Buffalo at bay despite facing some good opportunities right up until the final whistle. A look at how the Flyers got to Miller, and why bad bounces and deflections refuse to let Ilya Bryzgalov find his way completely out of the woods.

Coming into Wednesday night’s Flyers-Sabres game in Buffalo, Ryan Miller was had lost his previous three starts, with Buffalo’s only win in its last four games coming with Jonas Enroth in net. The all-world goalie (you apparently can’t talk about Miller without saying “all-world”) wouldn’t survive the first period against the Flyers, with the visitors putting three of their first ten shots past him before Lindy Ruff turned the game over to Enroth.

The change in net (and presumably a Ruffing up in the intermission) revitalized the Sabres, who got their act together to start the second and eventually score the game’s next two goals. Ceding momentum, the Flyers weren’t able to beat Enroth at all, but they managed to keep Buffalo at bay despite facing some good opportunities right up until the final whistle.

A look at how the Flyers got to Miller, and why bad bounces and deflections refuse to let Ilya Bryzgalov find his way completely out of the woods, plus video highlights below.

Philadelphia blitzed the Buffalo zone from the opening drop, and Miller was under siege with little help holding off everything from huge shots to free second-effort attempts. Miller was giving up big rebounds, and rookie Sean Couturier put one home to open the scoring less than two minutes. in.

Thirteen seconds later, James van Riemsdyk hung a confidence-shatterer on the Sabres netminder, beating him high glove side from the right circle, catching a slight deflection from a defenseman. Credit Zac Rinaldo with creating the scoring opportunity on this one, forcing a turnover with a big check as Buffalo tried to get through the neutral zone.

Harts on Fire
If there was any question as to whether Miller could turn the night around, it was answered at 6:23, when Scott Hartnell beat him again high-glove side. This one came on another fine play by the G Line (still no going name for that one yet). Claude Giroux skated up the middle with his body oriented toward Jaromir Jagr, on his right. As Eddie Olcyzk astutely pointed out, Jagr signaled for Giroux to instead find Hartnell, who was wide open up the left side. G spun it it over to Hartnell, who skated in and blasted a shot over Miller’s glove hand. As confident as Hartnell is right now, Miller looked exactly the opposite and got the hook for Jonas Enroth. 

Said Hartnell after the game: “Probably the nicest shot I’ve ever had. Usually my goals are right in front of the net, the garbage goals, so I’ll take it.”

The Flyers hit a rough patch in the second, including a stretch of three straight icing calls that kept the G line on the ice for an extended turn. They also took a few sloppy penalties, and Buffalo regained some momentum as the Flyers shuffled lines to keep legs as fresh as possible.

The Bad Bounces Continue
Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed just three goals in his two starts since the Winnipeg debacle. Even more impressive, it’s hard to put any of the goals solely or directly on him. Before during and after the worst of his struggles, Bryz has had some terrible luck with shots being deflected off of his own men, opposing sticks, and the end boards. Both of tonight’s goals came off bounces that were difficult for any goalie for him to control.

The Sabres scored their first on a screened wide shot that took a bad carom off the end boards and found its way into the crease and past Bryzgalov. Thomas Vanek was pressuring on the play, but he didn’t get a stick on it. It’d be great if Bryz somehow found that puck surprisingly at his feet, but it wasn’t a bad goal. 

Vanek missed a stretch of the game after getting banged up in a scrum, and on his first shift back in the third, he helped key a scoring play that once again caromed in on a very unfortunate bounce for Bryz. Vanek skated the puck deep, pushing it past Braydon Coburn behind the net, and Luke Adam threw it toward the front of the net, where it bounced off of Kimmo Timonen’s skate and into the goal.

While Bryz looked a little shaky on a few plays, he was very strong on the majority, lining up well on angles and generally keeping control of his crease. Overall, he looks to be back to a safe place, but the bad bounces are keeping him a little skittish at times. Understandable, as long as it disappears with this voodoo that’s plaguing his defensemen.

No Love Lost
These two teams did serious battle in last year’s playoffs, and they got right back to it in this one. After a relatively calm opening period, things got pretty rough in the second all the way down to the whistle. That continued to start the third, and the Flyers had some powerplay time, but couldn’t capitalize. It’s a pretty fun matchup, with the animosity carrying over despite all the personnel changes on both sides.

Notes

  • Hartnell had another very good all-around game and now has 10 points in his last five games. He had a goal and a few good opportunities early, and his effort level in the defensive zone especially in the third period was outstanding.
  • Did Ville Leino play in this game? Quietest 19:51 of ice time ever. Other than getting hit by Coburn to start the scrum at the end of the second, Leino was barely mentioned, with no points on four shots taken, none of which were on goal.
  • Vanek was blazing when he was on the ice, and the Flyers are probably lucky he played only 15 minutes.
  • Coburn had an aggression to his game tonight, something the team needs to see more of with one of the prevailing stories on the season to date being too many free passes in front of the net.
  • Who votes Zac Rinaldo gets to play until he Carcillo’s himself out of the lineup? So far he’s shown that he can find a big hit anywhere on the ice, and the Flyers need some nasty without all the dumb that often comes with it.
  • Couturier played nearly two minutes on both the powerplay and the penalty kill. He’s 18 years old, and despite playing tough minutes and seeing plenty of time on a checking line this season, he already has three goals.
  • The Flyers were pretty bad in the face-off circle, winning just 19 of 55.
  • But, they did hit the three-goal mark faster than they have in any game since November 15, 2001, per Elias.

Video Highlights

Up Next
The Flyers won’t get a chance to watch their new Union buddies try to stay alive in the MLS playoffs tomorrow night, as they come home to host the Devils. Joffrey Lupul notched a hat trick to lead the Maple Leafs over the Devils by a 5-3 count at the Rock on Wednesday. Martin Brodeur gave up all five goals, and it’s pretty unlikely we’ll see the 39-year-old on Thursday. Look for Johan Hedberg to resume starting duties at least for the night.

Photo: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE