Flyers' left-wing lock integral in stifling Lightning

Flyers' left-wing lock integral in stifling Lightning

February 6, 2013, 10:00 am

Peter Laviolette knew well in advance of Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay what his Flyers would be up against.
 
The highest scoring club in the NHL – 39 goals coming in – with a roster that was both deeper and faster than his.
 
Laviolette knew Tampa’s defense, led by Matt Carle and Sami Salo, would flawlessly get pucks quickly up ice to their forwards, much as they did on Jan. 27 during a 5-1 rout over the Flyers in Tampa.
 
So Lavy went with his left-wing lock, which sometimes resembles a 2-3 trap.
 
Essentially, the Flyers pressured the puck into the left defensive corner, forced Tampa to come up on the right boards whenever possible, then had three men spread across the middle, sealing breakaway passes while preventing odd-man rushes through the neutral zone.
 
Whatever speed advantage the Bolts had was negated in the game as the Flyers hung on for a 2-1 victory that had the feel of playoff game in February (see story).
 
The Flyers had been practicing the lock at Skate Zone on Monday.
 
“We've been working on it,” Max Talbot said. “The gaps were great, the track-backs from our forwards. I think we played more North as well with the puck, we're more sharp and it definitely feels good to beat them.”
 
Tampa’s Marty St. Louis said the Bolts were frustrated not being able to skate fluidly while the Flyers seemed to have the puck far more often than they did in the offensive zone.
 
“I felt they had a lot of offensive zone time the first half of that game,” St. Louis said. “So, we didn’t have enough fresh legs to go on the offense. That’s pretty much what happened. But we fought back and [Ilya] Bryzgalov made some key saves at key times. We just didn’t get it done.”
 
Laviolette never talks about his lock. He gives a very generic answer when asked about defensive systems.
 
“I thought the penalty kill did a really nice job,” he said, redirecting the question. “They are a dangerous group out there, but I thought our guys took away time and space. Our defensemen did a good job with sticks on pucks and eliminating gaps. Our forwards did a good job reloading and coming back hard to our end.
 
“We blocked a lot of shots tonight and cleaned up the front of the net. There were still a lot of good quality chances for the talented group on the other side. When we needed it, Bryzgalov was outstanding.”
 
Indeed, Bryzgalov was once again outstanding with 21 saves. Since this shortened season began, Bryzgalov has been the most consistent Flyer in his play.
 
His record (4-5) doesn’t begin to tell the story of how well he’s played with a 2.24 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
 
Asked about what was the defensive key to this victory, Bryzgalov gave one of his amusing responses where he avoids the question with humor.
 
“You know, I have no idea,” he said. “I only have to be responsible for my job. We can talk about my game. I stay away from the judgment.”