Bryzgalov Posts Third Straight Shutout, Danny Finally Lights the Lamp

Bryzgalov Posts Third Straight Shutout, Danny Finally Lights the Lamp

Well, the Flyers finally put it all together—creating pressure, capitalizing on offensive opportunities, stifling opposing attacks, and of course, getting stellar goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov earned his third consecutive shutout and his fourth in five games. En route to a 3-0 Flyers win, Bryz had some great support, but the Devils also sent some dangerous shots his way, and he needed to be sharp. 
The boys in front of him gave full effort, killing what could have been some devastating penalties. Gone was the lethargy that characterized their entire Sunday night performance against this same Devils team, replaced with end-to-end skating, hard checking, and some great teamwork that resulted in one goal scorer breaking a hell of a cold snap. 
Despite playing his ass off, Danny Briere needed to be a little lucky to score his first goal in 23 games. Not only did it come with Martin Brodeur pulled, but Danny's first attempt on the empty cage was also blocked. It bounced right back to him though, and he wasn't going to be denied twice. I think everyone in the building shared in his jubilation as he skated over to the boards and tried to hug the entire arena at once. 
Sean Couturier opened the scoring in the second period with a tally that was a nice encapsulation of the Flyers' night. The fourth line was out for an offensive zone faceoff against the Devils' top line, won the faceoff, then scored an opportunistic goal. Braydon Coburn banked a shot off the rear boards, and your guess is as good as mine as to what the hell happened to Brodeur on this one. 
That's not the hardest goal Cooter will score, but it was a huge one. 
Danny Briere's snakebitten streak has gotten plenty of attention, and rightfully so. But, especially lately, he's been making noticeable contributions without scoring, working hard along the boards and generating some strong opportunities. Tonight, that hard work resulted in the Flyers' second goal, with Danny controlling the puck behind the net under pressure, then getting it out front for Jake Voracek, who popped it home. 
Voracek was of course making his return from a few games off after getting absolutely trucked by Nicklas Kronwall. There was no evidence of any cobwebs or rust, as Vorch was one of the top players on the ice from start to finish. 
And of course, Danny finished it off, with a little help from Voracek, who could have kept the shot for himself and had his way with the empty net. Instead, he passed it off to a teammate who needed a goal infusion. 
Watching it live, I couldn't figure out where the puck went on the first one. It seemed to disappear, then reappear on Danny's stick before bulging the net. 
The shutout streak was upheld despite some tough minutes on the penalty kill, including a 4-minute Devils man advantage for a high stick by Nick Grossmann. 
New Jersey managed only one shot on goal during the entire kill. 
There were also a pair of terrible interference calls on Scott Hartnell, but the first mostly just wiped out a Flyers' power play, and the second saw him take Eric Boulton off with him. Check out the video on those calls here. 
Another great moment came when Bryz had lost his stick and had to use—and make a save with—Erik Gustafsson's twig. His overall game is locked in, with perfect positioning on first efforts and quick resets in preparation for seconds. During his struggles at other times in the season, Bryz seemed to under- or overreact to shots, the latter taking him out of position. Now, he is playing within the pipes, and snapping back any time he comes out for a save. He didn't have to make a massive amount of saves—just 17—but he just about all of them look easy with his positioning. 
No Flyers goalie has posted three straight shutouts since John Vanbiesbrouck in 1999. At 196:13 of scoreless time, Bryz is still behind Beezer's two such streaks as a Flyer, which came in at 227:40 and 218:42, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via the Flyers). 
After turning in an absolute dud in Jersey, the Flyers played one of their best, most complete games of the season. Everyone had a good night, some even better than that. 

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek first road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek first road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions (5-2) upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth-most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue (3-4) fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15-for-23, 11 touchdowns) and next-to-last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.