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. 

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."