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Bobrovsky Comes Up Huge For Flyers In Long Island

12 Jan

The legend of Sergei Bobrovsky was first introduced in Philadelphia when the Flyers signed him two years ago. Bob’s performance hasn’t always been worthy of the legend, but Thursday night on Long Island the goalie seemed, well, legendary. He was the difference as the Flyers got past the Islanders, 3-2.

Bobrovsky got his second consecutive win, coming off a 35-save winning performance over the Carolina Hurricanes. The 23-year-old has created somewhat of a goalie controversy with his play recently. He’s now played 10-3-1 on the year and has made appearances in 17 games; that’s probably more time off than Ilya Bryzgalov was expecting to have.

Early on Bobrovsky showed why Peter Laviolette’s move to go with the hot hand was a good one. Michael Grabner earned a penalty shot at 2:49 of the first period and went low on Bobrovsky, where the Russian had an answer with his blocker.

Bobrovsky saved all of the 12 shots he faced in the first period and the Flyers got him the lead when Scott Hartnell tipped in a Jaromir Jagr offering on the power play for his 19th goal of the season.

Wayne Simmonds added to the Flyers’ lead in the second period when he caught Evgeni Nabokov off guard and got the puck back to Kimmo Timonen. Timonen’s slapshot hit the back boards where it was left for Simmonds. The winger threw it on net, where it bounced off the skate of Nabokov who was still not settled properly, and it went in for his first goal in nine games.

In the third period, Sean Couturier made it three straight games with a goal, showing why he was selected to the Rookie All-Star game. He sniped a shot from the left wing on Nabokov.

It was a rare rush in Islander territory in the third period. Most of the play was in front of the crease of Bobrovsky. He allowed two goals in the final period. One was in close on Kyle Okposo. The other was in the final minute by John Tavares. Bobrovsky made 33 saves on the night to give the Flyers another road victory and another win over the Islanders.

Timonen, Giroux Named All-Stars

12 Jan

The Flyers will be well-represented in Ottawa at the end of the month. According to the team, Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen will be All-Stars. Matt Read and Sean Couturier will make the trip as well for the rookie game.

This is Timonen’s fifth All-Star nomination. He didn’t play in 2000 due to injury and hinted last Saturday that the same might happen this time around as well.

“It’s hard to say,” said Timonen who had just played against Ottawa despite a wrist injury that nearly kept him out of the lineup. “It’s hard to say no if you get chosen, but it’s one of those things where if you’ve got injuries, it’s time to heal your injuries at that time. When that time comes, I’m gonna really take a look at the situation, but it’s that time.”

Timonen has one goal and 24 assists on the year. He is also the keystone to the Flyers’ defensive corps. That became more obvious when he missed parts of two periods a week ago against Chicago.

For Giroux, the All-Star Game will be somewhat of a homecoming. Ottawa may be hundreds of miles away from Hearst, Ont., where Giroux was born, but it’s still in the same province. Giroux came in seventh among forwards in the fans vote and didn’t initially make the cut when the fans voted the starting six players.

“I don’t care if it’s top six, I just want to make the team,” said Giroux last week. “That would be pretty cool and to go back to back would be pretty cool. It’s in Ottawa where my friends are. It would be a pretty good experience.”

Giroux is second in the league in points, tied with Phil Kessel. Last year he had a goal and an assist in the All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C.

Read is tied for first among rookies in goals. He has played on every line this season for the Flyers. Couturier has seven goals and six assists this season in 37 games. He has centered the fourth line during most of his action.

With Gustafsson Up, Lilja Top Candidate To Sit

12 Jan

He waited and waited and played five games with the Phantoms. Finally, Erik Gustafsson gets the chance to pick up where he left off. On Nov. 5, his last game with the Flyers, he was a plus-6, played a career-high 23 minutes and got his first NHL point on an assist. Then he missed almost two months of action with a wrist injury.

The Flyers called Gustafsson up on Wednesday and sent Matt Walker down to the AHL. The team has been lacking something on the blue line, not that Walker was part of the problem. He hasn’t been able to crack the lineup.

But Andreas Lilja has and he may be the one, instead of rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon, to sit as a healthy scratch. Lilja has been steadily losing ice time to Bourdon, who continues to improve and has even contributed a couple points. He had a goal in Sunday’s loss to the Senators. He seems unlikely to sit with Gustafsson back in the fold.

Some have wondered if Gustafsson has been at full strength, whether he could even take a slapshot. But he was firing from the point at Citizens Bank Park. He said that he was ready even then, but was trying not to think about a comeback to the NHL.

It was a huge disappointment for Gustafsson to miss time. When he went down injured, he was clearly playing his best hockey at the NHL level.

“It was really frustrating at the start there,” said Gustafsson last Friday. “I tried to put that aside and then when I had to have the surgery I was trying to stay positive. It was for sure really frustrating, but I’m just gonna keep working hard right now. It feels pretty good right now and I hope I get another crack at it.”

He was a plus-2 with two shots on net in the Outdoor Classic against Hershey and wants to get back to his old form. He played another game after the Outdoor Classic and registered an assist. According to Gustafsson, his conditioning was the only thing that wasn’t 100 percent. Now it will be tested at the highest level.

Rookies, Bobrovsky Steal Flyers A Win

10 Jan

The Flyers haven’t had many games where a goalie has stolen the game. Considering the way their defense played, that didn’t appear likely on Tuesday. With the normal suspects coming up empty on the scoresheet, Sergei Bobrovsky was able to do it though. He stole the Flyers a 2-1 win with a pair of rookies taking over the scoring duties for the night.

Defensive problems have had the Flyers behind the 8-ball the past couple of games. According to one report, the team even talked about it for an hour on Monday, but on Tuesday it didn’t appear to help much.

In the first period, the Flyers came up limp in their defensive end, allowing 11 shots. Bobrovsky had an answer for all of them. Claude Giroux tried to erase a two-game silence with a great scoring chance six seconds into the game, but that was as close as the Flyers got to beating Cam Ward in the first.

With stars like Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Danny Briere silent, the Flyers’ rookies took over. A little more than four minutes into the middle period, Brayden Schenn scored his second goal of the year on a rebound from a Wayne Simmonds chance.

Jerome Sansom finally beat Bobrovsky on a third effort on a Carolina power play with Kimmo Timonen in the penalty box for interference. Bobrovsky stopped two slapshots back-to-back, but couldn’t control the rebounds on the high-powered shots. Sansom was all alone in front and had an empty net to shoot in.

Instead of Giroux’s line — which has now gone scoreless in three games for the first time all season — it was another rookie who stepped up.

Sean Couturier took the puck into the Carolina end and for some reason, the Hurricane defender peeled off, giving him a clear path to the net. Couturier skated closer to the net and beat Ward on the short side. With the two goals and an assist from Harry Zolnierczyk, the Flyers now have 57 points from their rookies this season.

Bobrovsky won his first game since Dec. 29 making 35 saves. He was especially tested late in the contest, but came up big with the Hurricanes looking to tie the score.

The victory not only gave Bobrovsky a win, his 37th as a Flyer, it is also coach Peter Laviolette’s 100th with the club.

Jakub Voracek Finding Other Ways To Contribute

10 Jan

Jakub Voracek didn’t really know what to expect. He was traded to Philadelphia from Columbus, where the last year of his entry-level contract was marred by only one point in his final 16 games and coach Scott Arniel calling out the top-six forward for his conditioning, or, apparently, lack thereof.

“It was the worst time in my life in my NHL career,” said Voracek in early November. “Even though it was a tough situation, in [16] games if you are playing on the first or second line you have to be able to get more than one assist, secondary assist. I mean, somehow you’ve got to get it.

“It’s impossible to not have it, but really that time nothing went in and we didn’t play well as a team. I didn’t play well as a player, point-wise, and the season ended that way. But I did everything in the summer to [not] let it happen again.”

Recognizing the fresh start, Voracek went to Montreal to begin working on his conditioning and on his shot. He was one of the last ones to arrive at camp, but that’s no reflection of his work ethic. He wanted to be in top shape when he arrived.

Voracek came with high expectations in Columbus. He was drafted seventh overall in 2007, and the Blue Jackets were hoping for a 20-goal scorer, but he never seemed to pan out. Many there said that he had a problem with work ethic – but that hasn’t been an issue in Philadelphia.

“I think Jake is one of those guys who has been playing better and better and better as the season goes on,” said linemate Danny Briere. “I think when you go from one team to another, there’s a lot at first. You’re trying to get in as far as a system, teammates, how it works, new house, new place. There was a lot of work into that for him at first. Slowly, he’s starting to get more and more comfortable.”

Voracek has gotten comfortable on the second line. He’s gotten comfortable on the penalty kill. He’s gotten comfortable on the power play. The only thing he’s not comfortable doing, apparently, is shooting. And he knows it, too.

“I have a good shot, I just don’t use it,” said Voracek. “So many times I can shoot it and at the last second, the pass comes in my head. If I change it and I be a little more selfish — I don’t mean I won’t pass — but if the pass is not there and I’m not looking for it and I shoot it, that way I can be better at it. It will be better for me and the team.”

Voracek is eighth on the team with 82 shots taken. He has six goals, but two of which were game winners. On the surface, the total seems low, but his game this year has been finding his teammates. He already has 20 assists, nearly halfway through the season. His career-high is 34, and he’s on pace to beat that by seven. His first instinct is simply to pass.

“It’s tough,” said Voracek. “You have the puck, you have a clean shot, then you see a teammate back door or something. Just that little time, you stop thinking about it. Then when you want to shoot the puck, it’s too late.”

The pucks have only gone in a handful of times for Voracek this season, but he’s been effective in other ways. He sees time on both the penalty kill and the first unit on the power play.

“Well, I was prepared to play power play,” said Voracek. “I wasn’t prepared to play penalty kill. Regardless, I’m playing almost 20 minutes a night, which is great. Penalty kill, power play and when you see the coach trusts you, it’s a good sign.”

The knock in Columbus was against Voracek not living up to the hype. Here in Philadelphia he isn’t expected to be a star and, so far, he’s done everything the Flyers have asked of him.

“I always say if the team is playing well, the player is playing well,” said Voracek. “I think we’re playing very solid hockey games. We are four points out of first.

“It’s hard to say. The team’s playing well and I think I’m where I wanted to be. If the coach trusts you and has confidence in you, it’s always a great sign.”

Flyers Collapse In Third, Lose At Ottawa

8 Jan

Two-goal leads are dangerous. Especially when the Flyers have them in the third period. For the third time in four games, the Flyers gave up a lead in the final period, but this time they weren’t able to recover. They were handed a 6-4 loss by Ottawa in the second half of a home-and-home, mainly because of some mistakes in their own end.

As impressive as the Flyers have been offensively, they need some work defensively. That was evident on the Senators’ first goal. Both Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle chased Kyle Turris who had the puck. With Daniel Alfredsson streaking toward the net, Turris had an easy pass target and the Senators’ captain had an easy time getting a shot off as Ilya Bryzgalov had already committed to Turris.

But the Flyers have been a resilient bunch and fired back. Andrej Meszaros’ blast from the point found its way behind Craig Anderson to tie the score. For Meszaros, it was a goal against the team that drafted him in his 500th NHL game.

Aside from the defense, young Flyers stepped up. Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Marc-Andre Bourdon each scored. That makes four rookies scoring five goals on the season in Ottawa. Couturier seems to especially enjoy playing in Ottawa. His goal on Sunday was his first in 22 games. He also scored his first NHL goal against Ottawa back in October.

Bryzgalov played well, despite the goals against. He allowed a goal from Chris Neil that it appeared as though he stopped at first glance, but a lengthy replay revealed that he brought the puck back out of the net from just behind the goal line.

In the third period, he had a goal scored against him that he had zero shot on. Colin Greening made a pass intended for Jason Spezza, but Carle extended his stick to block it and instead redirected it behind the Flyers’ netminder. All-Star Erik Karlsson beat Bryzgalov later in the third period when he took the shot on a 2-on-1 and beat him five-hole.

On the night, Bryzgalov was actually pretty good. In fact the past two games against Ottawa may have been some of his best hockey this season. He made 32 saves on the night and came up huge for the Flyers as time was winding down in the third period. For the most part, he was calm and confident, coming out of his crease to cut down the angle.

In front of him, the Flyers ran out of gas. With 1:11 left in the game, Filip Kuba scored his fourth of the year on a shot from the point that deflected off Scott Hartnell. That was the second of five goals against Bryzgalov that were put in the net by his teammates.

Focused Bryzgalov Comes Up Huge For Flyers

7 Jan

WELLS FARGO CENTER — Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t do a lot of talking on Friday at practice. He politely answered questions, even threw in a bit of his trademarked comedy. He wanted his play to do the talking.

Yes, sure, he got the win on Thursday night over the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks. But in the third period he let in two goals that he wanted to have back. On Saturday, the performance was one of his best this year. He made 35 saves and got another win, one he felt better about.

“Bryz played well,” said Braydon Coburn. “He was solid to the shooter. He played the puck well tonight. He was solid in there all game for us tonight. When we needed him to come up with some big saves, he definitely did that, so he had a big night and I’m happy for him.”

Bryzgalov was subdued postgame, cautious not to be too outgoing or casual. He didn’t want to just goof around, something he had been accused of doing and subsequently ripped for. He was relaxed, but focused, just like how he played against Ottawa.

“Yeah, I was happy with my game tonight,” said Bryzgalov. “Like I said before, the other night was lots of positive signs and I’m glad I can improve my game tonight.”

The Flyers hit the post four times in the game, so it could have been much more than a 3-2 victory. Instead it was kept close from start to finish and part of that reason why was Bryzgalov. He came up huge on multiple occasions. From a glove save on Chris Neil while he was down on the ground, to a game-saving stop on Bobby Butler in overtime, Bryzgalov was there when the Flyers needed him most.

“It was 2-1 [Ottawa] and we gave up some 2-on-1s and they could have ran away with the game, but he was able to keep us in there,” said Danny Briere who scored each of the team’s three goals. “And in overtime, too, we had some breakdowns that we’d like to get back.”

There was a clear difference in Bryzgalov on the ice. It wasn’t just that he made the saves, but how. He was very good laterally, moving from post-to-post. He had to do that on the Butler stop in overtime. He was also much better at rebound control, something that has been a thorn in his side all year.

“You can play the game and you still feel not confident, not comfortable,” said Bryzgalov, referring to the game against Chicago where he made 30 saves on 34 shots, but won by the slimmest of margins, 5-4. “Then somehow after some save or something click in your head, you just be yourself again and everything finds you. Everything stops for you. You see everything. You hear everything. I dunno, it’s just mental.”

Whenever that happened for Bryzgalov is unclear. Judging by the difficulty of some of his first-period saves, it probably happened pretty early Saturday afternoon. Either way, the Flyers are glad to have him back.

“He was excellent, I thought from the start to the finish,” said Peter Laviolette. “Goaltending was a factor tonight. It was good both ways. A lot of opportunities and a lot of attempts, but our guy held us in there for some chances against Ottawa. They have a high-scoring team. We knew going into it they would generate chances and that we would need good goaltending.”

Who knows if there’s a correlation between Bryzgalov’s personality and his play? Maybe it doesn’t matter which “face,” as he said on HBO’s “24/7,” he puts on. But on Saturday he put on the serious face. He barely even smiled when asked about the win. But what’s clear is that his head was in the right place, and he was stopping pucks as well as he had all season.