Category Archives: Opinion

The Flyers and shootouts

The Flyers played a boring game last night against the Florida Panthers.  It was a win, in a shootout no less (thanks to an absolute ankle-breaking, knee buckling move by Claude Giroux), but I just never got into it.  I don’t know if it’s because the Panthers are normally bad and I just expect the Flyers to beat them but they’re actually good this year or what.

That aside, the game eventually played through a scoreless overtime and we entered the dreaded Bettman shootout.  Yeah.

The Flyers aren’t a good team in shootouts.  Entering last night, they had lost all three shootouts they had been in, and they were something like 3-10 going back through the 2010-11 season.  For a team as offensively talented as the Flyers, it seemed odd.

Now, I have DirecTV Center Ice, and as great as it is, I can rarely watch the CSN Philly feeds of the games, which means I generally have to suffer through the opposing team’s announcers.  Last night was no exception.  After the five minutes of four-on-four overtime concluded, the Florida commentators were discussing just how bad the Flyers are in shootouts, and they brought up an interesting point.

Apparently, coach Peter Laviolette has stated, and I’m paraphrasing, that they simply do not practice the shootout, as there are more important things that the practice time needs to go to.  This baffled me.  I realize that once the game gets to a shootout, you’ve already been guaranteed one point, but winning hockey games is what matters.  That consolation “Bettman Point” is nice, but every point counts.  Why not practice, improve, and get two points?

The announcers continued, and asked the rhetorical question, “So, the Flyers are going to make the playoffs, right?”  The answer was yes.  “Well, there are no shootouts in the postseason.”

So very true.  If that is indeed Laviolette’s reasoning, then I definitely understand it.  What would serve the team better: Spending valuable practice time on the shootout, which will occur a dozen or so times a year, or spending that time practicing and improving on things that will have an impact on the outcome of literally every single game?

Sure, maybe late in the year the Flyers will be right on the cusp of moving up or falling down a seed that could dictate home ice advantage in the playoffs, and those points they missed out on by not performing well in shootouts could come back to bite them.  Then again, maybe that extra penalty kill or powerplay practice they would have missed out on by spending time improving in shootouts would have had meant that games that were won were instead lost due to lack of practice on those particular facets of the game.

It’s definitely and interesting thought, but I have to say that I agree with Laviolette.  Winning the Atlantic Division, earning that Prince of Wales Trophy, and taking home ice would be nice, but it’s not the end game; winning a Stanley Cup is.

And you don’t do that in shootouts.

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In defense of Ilya Bryzgalov

There isn’t a hotter topic in the Philadelphia hockey world than that of Russian netminder and apparent philosopher, Ilya Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov, 31, was signed this past offseason to a “humongous” deal, to the tune of nine years and $51 million.  A former second round pick by the Anaheim Ducks, Bryzgalov had been a stellar goaltender throughout his first five seasons, posting save percentages of .907, .920, .906, .920, and .921, respectively, for the Ducks and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Those numbers were plenty good to compel a franchise that hadn’t had a consistent presence in net since the late 1980’s to acquire the veteran goalie, who was brought in to do one thing: win the Stanley Cup.

We know that Bryzgalov is a stellar goalie, regardless of what many fans and writers on the internet would like you to believe.  Is he Tim Thomas or Henrik Lundqvist?  No, but he’s not that far below that upper echelon of goalies, either.  He’s certainly a (very expensive) step up from a combination of a Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton, and Sergei Bobrovsky goalie carousel.

This year, however, Bryz has not been the $51 million presence between the pipes that everyone hoped would lead this Flyers team to their first Cup in more than three decades.

Through his first four games of the season, Bryzgalov posted a very nice .927 save percentage, including a shutout in the second game of the season, which happened to be one more shutout than the Flyers posted all of last season.

If Bryzgalov was brilliant in his first four games, he was the polar opposite in the next four, posting an .802 save percentage.  The roller coaster was rolling, with Bryz posting a .944 save percentage over his next six games.  While he seemed to be back on track after a rough patch, his play said otherwise.  Over the next 16 games, Bryzgalov saved just 392 of 444 shots, for a paltry .883 save percentage.

Through January 17th, Ilya Bryzgalov has posted an .893 save percentage, spanning 30 games and allowing 3.07 goals against per game, hardly the numbers of the elite netminder the Flyers had hoped for.

While looking at the numbers, it seems pretty obvious that Bryzgalov has been incredibly up and down, and wildly inconsistent overall.  When he has a rough game, it’s usually followed up by several more rough games before the ship is righted, and it seems that he then strings together a couple good games again.

Did Ilya Bryzgalov leave Phoenix for Philly and forget how to play hockey during the plane ride across the country?  Of course he didn’t.  The season may be half over, but we have to remember that the 30 game sample we have on Bryzgalov thus far is still a relatively small sample size in the grand scheme of things.  30 games is a fair number of games, but when judging a player, it’s still such a small number.

The Flyers signed Bryzgalov for nine years with an estimated 60 to 70 starts per season.  30 games are simply not enough to judge a player on.  If Bryzgalov indeed does spend the next nine years between the pipes in orange and black, these first 30 games will be roughly five percent of his career in Philadelphia.  Five percent.  Is that really enough of a sample to write him off?

Relax and stop rooting against the guy because you don’t like the contract Ed Snider and the Flyers brass handed him.  Before you write Bryzgalov off, give him a fair shake.

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