Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Opportunity Knocks This Week for Flyers and Thoughts On Bryzgalov
Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.
By John Saquella (@jsaquella)
Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
The Flyers, coming off a week that went about as good as it possibly could have, have a major opportunity to continue their turnaround with a week of some very winnable games.
The first step will be the Ottawa Senators. Still a very solid team, they’ve hit a bit of a win one, lose one pattern, as starting goalie Craig Anderson has struggled to return to form after an injury. Back-up Robin Lehner played brilliantly in Anderson’s absence, but Ottawa coach Paul MacLean is trying to get his starter back into the flow. Anderson’s had two games in his last 3 where he allowed 4 or more goals(5 to the Flyers and 4 to Columbus Sunday).
The next game will see the Flyers battle the struggling Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are a physically tough team and have been getting mostly great goaltending from Ryan Miller, but they have been getting dominated in terms of possession and shots faced. Ted Nolan will definitely get the best out of the Sabres, though and make it a tough game.
The last game of the week is against the Islanders. The Isles have gone 4-6 since trading Matt Moulson and 1st & 2nd rounders to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek. Vanek has not played since November 9th, but is likely to return by the time the Flyers face the Isles. The Flyers have had the Islanders number for the past several seasons, and the Isles are one of the three opponents who have allowed the Flyers to score more than 2 goals in a game.
The Flyers are 4-1-2 since they were destroyed by the Washington Capitals on November 1st. The bounced back after that game to shutout New Jersey 1-0. They then lost a heartbreaker in a shoot out to Carolina. The Devils bettered the Flyers in a rematch, 3-0. The Flyers faced a dreadful looking week, with tough matchups against Ottawa, Pittsburgh and in Winnipeg after an afternoon tilt against the bottom feeding Edmonton Oilers. Well, the Flyers beat the Oilers, then crushed the Sens 5-0. The very next night, they topped the always difficult Penguins. The week ended on a bit of a down note, blowing a late lead to Winnipeg before ultimately falling in a shootout.
Still, the Flyers had a rough schedule, with 3 games in 4 nights, traveling from Philly to Ottawa, then Pittsburgh and ultimately in Winnipeg. They got 7 out of 8 possible points, including the game against the Oilers in Philly and have inched towards the elusive .500 mark. If they manage a sweep this week…they will be 10-10-2 on the year.
BRYZ IN EDMONTON
I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the Edmonton Oilers recalling Ilya Bryzgalov.
I am a Flyers fan, and I like Ilya Bryzgalov. I think he’s capable of being a very good goalie, despite his quirks. I find him to be entertaining. I was on board with the decision by the Flyers to buy him out, because it was clearly the end of the road for him in Philadelphia. But I still like the guy.
That said, I think it’s a horrible fit for him and the Oilers. Bryzgalov struggled behind a poor defensive team in Philly, and he has a reputation of not exactly being the easiest guy in the world to deal with when he perceives that his defense let him down on a goal against.
That might be fine and well on a team with veteran leadership, and a strong defensive team. But the Oilers are not a team with the strong leadership that can keep Bryz in check or the strong defense that he can thrive behind. As subpar as the Flyers defense-especially overall team defense-Bryzgalov was inconsistent, jumping from periods of sheer brilliance to periods where he couldn’t make a momentum save if his life depended on it.
It’s a huge risk, and I don’t think it will end well for the Oilers. But I’d love to see Bryzgalov turn out to be a good move for the Oilers, for both his sake and the organization’s.