Well, after less than two weeks we finally have our answer. Ilya Bryzgalov is not going to play all 82 regular season games for our Philadelphia Flyers.
On Tuesday, second-year sensation Sergei Bobrovsky got the call between the pipes against a bottom-feeding Ottawa Senators team. The Flyers carried the play for much of the game and Bobrovsky did not face many serious tests. Philadelphia dominated the opening period, outshooting the Senators 10-3 and taking a 4-0 lead into the first intermission. The second period, however, was a different story. The Senators took it to a Flyers team which seemed almost disinterested, nearly doubling up the Flyers in shots. However Bobrovsky’s steadying presence in goal protected the Flyer lead. The Flyers’ rightful domination of a club already seeming to circle the drain resumed in the third to put the game out of reach.
All in all, Bobrovsky was excellent in his first game of the season. One of my biggest gripes with him was a lack of net presence, and this game was certainly a good continuation of the young goaltender’s development. He was square to the shooters, allowing them no room to shoot and swallowing up pucks into his midsection.
There was nothing Bobrovsky could have done on either of Ottawa’s goals. The first was a brilliant setup by long-time Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson to star center Jason Spezza. Alfredsson’s pass through the crease landed directly on the stick of a charging Spezza who lifted it past Bobrovsky’s left pad and into the net. Bobrovsky could have done wonders for himself by lunging out with his stick in an attempt to knock the pass down, but otherwise the goal was unstoppable even for a goaltender as quick as Bobrovsky. The second goal occurred in the waning seconds of the third period when defenseman Erik Karlsson banked a shot off of the far post through a maze of bodies. Bobrovsky never saw it.
Unfortunately, the perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse Washington Capitals were not nearly as kind to the Flyers as the lowly Sens.
Starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov got the call. From the get-go of this game, the Flyers seemed out of sorts. Each team took three penalties in the opening period, leading to a lot of power play time for both squads. The only special teams goal of the period, however, came on Giroux’s breakaway tally. Unfortunately for the Flyers, a bugaboo from last season returned: letting up goals in the final minute of periods. With just over a minute remaining in the first period, a blatant giveaway by Scott Hartnell led to Mathieu Perreault banking a shot off of Braydon Coburn’s stick and past Bryzgalov for a tie score. This was followed by an Ovechkin tally with 11.8 seconds left in the period. Nicklas Backstrom fed a puck through the crease, through Andrej Meszaros’s legs, and onto the Washington captain’s stick, who deposited it into the net.
After a Flyer-controlled second period, the third period began with the same score, 2-1, in favor of the Capitals. This is where the weirdness began. Just over two minutes into the period, Roman Hamrlik let a lofted shot go from the point, redirecting off of Andreas Lilja’s stick and into the net. This was followed in short order by a patented Ovechkin one-timer which found its way through Bryzgalov, and another point shot-deflection, this time off the skate of offseason acquisition Joel Ward. It was a fluky period and there was little the Flyers netminder could have done to prevent the goals that were past him. It’s unfortunate that a game in which the Flyers played very well ended in such strange fashion.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
The goaltending this season has been spearheaded by the red hot starts of Dallas’s Kari Lehtonen, LA’s Jonathan Quick, and Edmonton’s Nikolai Khabibulin. It is early yet, however these netminders have been the class of the NHL in this young season.
• Quick: 4-0-1, 0.96 GAA, .967 SV%
• Khabibulin: 1-0-2, 0.95 GAA, .962 SV%
• Lehtonen: 5-0-0, 1.58 GAA, .953 SV%