Garon and Lightning Send Bryzgalov Back to Woods

Garon and Lightning Send Bryzgalov Back to Woods

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

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.