Thursday night's game against the Florida Panthers marked the third straight game the Flyers would have to play without defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros. Shortly before the teams took the ice, the team announced that Pavel Kubina would miss the game with an injury as well, which explained the mid-day call-up of Brandon Manning.
Already without Chris Pronger, this would seem to spell disaster for a team in the bottom third of the NHL for goals against. Or, an unlikely recipe for a pair of shutouts and three straight wins, four dating back to the last time the defense corps was intact. The Flyers makeshift blue line put in a stellar effort, as did Ilya Bryzgalov, who backstopped his fourth shutout of the season en route to a 5-0 Flyers win. A few notes and a look at the goals, below.
As we said in the pre-game, the Panthers aren't very good, and they came to town shorthanded. But man did they get blown off the ice in this one.
The Flyers managed to weather the dangerous seas of the early first period, where more often than not lately, they've been conceding rather than scoring goals.
They opened the scoring on the power play, when a 1-3-1 look had its way with the Panthers' PK unit and Brayden Schenn scored on a goal that probably drew some laughs. The play was designed to find Scott Hartnell in the slot, where he's done a ton of damage this season. The Panthers were keen to him, but he was still open when Claude Giroux sent a pass through the middle. But, as if drawn up this way, Harts fanned on the shot, and the pass went straight to Schenn, who put it past Jose Theodore.
Theodore appeared to bite on the belief that Harts' shot was coming his way, and Schenn didn't miss on his one-timer opp. Don't worry, Hartnell would get his too.
The defense was pretty tight early despite missing some key players, and they kept the quality opportunities to a minimum. Matt Carle showed how much the D is in tune with doing their part for their goalie, attacking Jack Skille for running into Bryz. Definitely arguable that maybe Skille didn't have much choice with Carle riding him pretty hard, which almost makes it even better that Carle objected so much.
Matt Read tagged his name on the rookie wall again, picking up his 19th of the season on a dirty rebound in tight to open up a second period the Flyers flat out dominated. They'd only score once more in the frame, but they held the edge most of the way. Hartnell tallied his 32nd of the season on a strip-steal and breakaway where he showed speed I'm not sure I've ever seen from him, then leaned on a hard wrister that flew over Theodore's glove hand.
The third period was much of the same, as the Flyers continued to pull away. Blocked shots aplenty, big saves by Bryzgalov, and two more goals. Jaromir Jagr was said to be unlikely to play in this one, and he had limited minutes early, skating with the fourth line and second power play unit while Schenn flanked on the G line. But Jags had energy in reserve, and he blazed a wrist shot past Theodore. The weight of his shots can be amazing, scoring despite hitting the goalie, and then the bare-hand salute comes out…
Eric Wellwood continues to play well when given the opportunity, and he picked up his third goal of the season and fifth point in just seven games. This guy's just begging for some playing time.
Not sure what Danny Briere did to piss off the hockey gods, but they're still holding a grudge. The good news is, despite staying on the snakebite, Briere played a great game, generating opportunities and picking up a pair of assists.&nb
Brandon Manning had a solid NHL debut, minimizing mistakes and cashing in with a plus-2 evening. He was even Bryz's LOL of the night, when the Russian goalie made reference to his being released by the Colts earlier today.
The Flyers were 2/4 on the power play and perfect on four kills.
Carle had four of the Flyers' 18 blocked shots.
That's 10 straight starts for Bryz. Will he sit one of the two games this weekend? Timing's right...