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. 

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

A look at some of the reaction around the sports world as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday:

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito on Twitter
"Today is the first day on the road to Making America Great Again #Inauguration2017"

Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green on Twitter
"Hope these 4 years fly by ? #TimeToPray"

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Huston Street on Twitter
"Today we start a new chapter, let's work together, and remember only saying negative without an idea is creating divide, it does not help US"

Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee on Twitter
"Inauguration Day.. Some folks happier than they've ever been.. some folks madder than they've ever been.. what a time to be alive"

Former USWNT soccer player Lauren Holiday , to her infant daughter, on Instagram
"I may not be the president, baby but I'll promise to be your Mom. I'll teach you that your brown skin is beautiful. I'll show you that being a girl and a woman is a privilege. How being incredibly powerful means serving those around you and fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. I will tell you about Jesus and how he taught us to love unconditionally. We will have many talks about equality and I will always encourage generosity. One day if you ask me what you can be, I will smile and say absolutely anything. I'll tell you whatever it is you choose, be kind. I'll fight for you, I'll cheer for you and I'll love you along the way. But most of all, I'll make sure you're hopeful. So today, baby, I'll choose hope."

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum on Twitter
"Appreciate you Mr. 44"

Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha on Twitter
"The only President my 2 daughters have known. Feels strange going from them to the new guy. Thanks for the class act Barack and Michelle !"

Former Texas and NFL receiver Jordan Shipley on Twitter
"Heard God's word in the inauguration speech. I care about our country being under God a lot more than I care about politics or parties."

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul on Twitter
"Thank You!!! #44"

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady when asked on Friday if he called Trump to congratulate him.
"Let's talk about football."

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere spoiled us.

In 64 games last season, we were spoiled by his 17 goals, most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 over a full 82 in 2005-06.

Spoiled by a historic 15-game point streak, the longest ever for a first-year blueliner.

And spoiled by four overtime winners, an NHL rookie single-season record.

With it all, Gostisbehere created a mighty and somewhat unfair challenge. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and perhaps made for even greater ones as an encore.

So, naturally, questions and doubts have swirled around his quiet sophomore season. Speaking to reporters last week after a 4-1 loss in Buffalo, Gostisbehere, for the first time, expressed just a hint of frustration. In the midst of his current 22-game goal drought, he wanted to make a point.

Astutely, he did.

“I’m doing my job,” he said. “I mean, I’m a defenseman, I’m not a goal scorer.”

It served as a reminder of what many wanted to see improve in Gostisbehere’s second NHL go-round — a more sound game in his own end by honing in on the defensive skills to his position.

Yes, he can change a game offensively, but could he be reliable and responsible defensively?

After all, Gostisbehere is a defenseman, like he said. We’ve already seen the offensive potential. From the onset, defensive growth is what head coach Dave Hakstol wanted to see.

“Consistency every day,” Hakstol said in early October. “Just be an everyday worker who is pushing hard to really improve himself as an NHL defenseman.”

Now, not only is Gostisbehere in a malaise offensively with four goals and 15 assists through 43 games, but he also hasn’t been sharp or consistent defensively. That certainly is a part of the concern permeating through the Delaware Valley. The 2015-16 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up has been benched twice because of it and is a team-worst minus-17 on the season.

However, the positive here is he’s focused on it. Forget scoring goals for a moment. Even with Gostisbehere’s struggles, Flyers defensemen have provided offense among the league’s best. And for a stretch of 20 games following his first healthy scratch on Nov. 17, Gostisbehere was cleaner and more active with 17 giveaways and 24 blocked shots just partially telling the story. In the 17 games prior, he had 19 giveaways and only 20 blocked shots.

“I’m here to help the team in any way possible,” Gostisbehere said last Sunday. “Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”

Even some of the all-time great defensemen went through the proverbial sophomore slump. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom went from 60 points and a plus-36 rating as a rookie to 41 and a plus-7 in his second season. Brian Leetch, also in the Hall of Fame, saw a dip in production across the board in Year 2 after winning the Calder Trophy.

But let’s not draw crazy comparisons. Let’s just understand the important thing here, which is Gostisbehere’s understanding that defense is paramount. He’s learning through his lumps, starting at the end of his breakout rookie campaign in which he looked spent from the NHL grind. He underwent minor offseason surgeries on his hip and lower abdomen, suffered a nasty face cut in the season opener, then a bone bruise on his right hand in December.

We’re just over halfway through the 2016-17 schedule. Gostisbehere is only 23 years old, a 2012 third-round pick with a cap hit less than 16 other Flyers in a season that looks more like a continued rebuild than a jump to contention.

Really, Shayne Gostisbehere should be some of the least of our worries.