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Garon and Lightning Send Bryzgalov Back to Woods

Dec 27, 2011, 11:19 PM EDT

Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov wasn't quite at a loss for words, but he couldn't explain his problems after a 5-1 loss despite dramatically outshooting the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The look on Ilya Bryzgalov’s face in his post-game chat with the beats just about said it all. Wide-eyed, staring, stunned. What the stare failed to express, the Russian netminder made clear, even dropping the ol’ audible F-bomb live on air for all to hear.

Bryzgalov and the Flyers ceded five goals on just 16 credited Tampa Bay Lightning shots. Mathieu Garon, who has taken over as Tampa’s starter, looked shaky to start the game, but weathered an early Flyers barrage and seemed increasingly sharp as the game moved on. There was a fun highlight reel goal and a huge win in a fight, but an overall poor effort in the second period cooked the Flyers.

A closer look at the game and some unanswered questions about Bryzgalov and the overall defensive struggles, below. Plus, Bryz’s postgame comments, which will likely make the next 24/7 ep.

In their last trip to Tampa, the Flyers had trouble getting shots on goal much less in it. Tonight, they had 17 shots in the first period alone while limiting the Lightning to just four. However, Bruno Gervais scored on the second of them, nearly 10 minutes into the period. A soft shot off the face-off appeared to change direction off of Brayden Schenn’s stick, falling through a hole that probably should have been a little tighter on Bryz’s part.

Scott Hartnell’s goal off another brilliant creation by Claude Giroux knotted it at one-apiece, and the Flyers appeared to have the edge. Unfortunately, they apparently left it in the locker room, unable to get anything going in the second. Steven Stamkos’ 21st and 22nd goals bookended a vomitous Steve Downie contribution, and the Flyers managed all of THREE shots on goal over the middle 20 minutes (see shots note below though).

The game got increasingly rough over the course of the second, with both sides testing the refs. Hartnell goaded an entire bench of blue-clad Lightning players, trading some stickwork with them, even causing Ryan Malone to jump the boards to try to get after him (unsuccessful) and Downie to swing a stick at him. That and a sound beating of Eric Brewer by Wayne Simmonds weren’t able to tip the scales in the Flyers’ favor, and Tampa held control the rest of the way.

What’s Up in Net?
The answers aren’t easy as to what’s causing the Flyers’ lapses in their own end. They’re having trouble clearing out traffic, even allowing the obvious threats like Stamkos far too much space. Screens, deflections, and bad bounces also have played a huge role, with each contributing to Downie’s goal. However, Bryzgalov looked slow reacting and going post to post, which was even more apparent with Garon stopping second efforts repeatedly. Bryz looked like he knew he had no shot at stopping the second period goals; even if that’s the case, it’s not something that should show up in the body language before the puck crosses the line.

If his head isn’t right, his body’s not in the right position.

On the one hand, you hope his luck off bad bounces improves and brings his save percentage up with it. But his confidence appeared shaky on the ice, and his frustrations were apparent when he fielded questions afterward. Like, letters-to-the-network apparent (see video below, which has a bleep the live feed did not). Lavvy has a tough decision to make heading into Thursday night’s game in Pittsburgh—the last before the Flyers play in the highest profile event on the hockey calendar.

Notes
The shots on goal totals are a little misleading in this one, as is often the case. Tampa was successful in blocking quite a few (22) while plenty missed the net (19). At the other end, the Lightning had as many shots not reach the net as they put on goal (seven blocked, nine missing the net).

No matter how you slice it up though, the Flyers took a ton more shots than the Lightning (73 vs 32), and had some very strong opportunities, but couldn’t beat Garon more than once.

At times, the Flyers looked like they were on the power play despite being at even strength. On the power play, they had trouble getting shots through to the net.

Malone and Hartnell each got a 10-min misconduct for the incident by the TB bench in the second, but the league could give its old buddy Steve Downie a call for the slash he sent Hartnell’s way from over the boards.

Giroux’s assist moved him to 44 points on the season, 17 goals and 37 helpers. He’s two points ahead of Evgeni Malkin.

This brutal road month can’t end soon enough. Carrying a great overall away record, the Flyers appear road-weary at this point, losing back-to-back away from home for the first time all season. Hopefully they don’t make it three in a row on Thursday.

Bryzgalov Postgame
Quote of the Night
“Out-staaannnding.”
    —Ilya Bryzgalov, frustrated, sarcastically, on his performance.

Game Highlights