We noted before this game that the main story was the Flyers facing off with their old goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov, and we also noted that if the Flyers play the way that they should against this Edmonton team it shouldn't matter who's in goal because the Oilers are not a very good hockey team.
And truthfully, that's pretty much how things played out tonight. After a brutal opening 4:02 where terrible defensive plays by Braydon Coburn and Mark Streit spotted the Oilers two goals, the Flyers completely controlled the majority of the remaining 61 minutes of hockey. The remainder of the first and second periods in particular were an utter steamrolling, and honestly, were it not, in fact, for some nice saves from Bryzgalov himself at even strength, the Flyers probably would have led and managed to win this one in regulation.
But because of Bryz's effort, because of the aforementioned defensive breakdowns early on, and because of some less-than-spectacular goaltending from Steve Mason (the only goal against that I thought was a weak one was the second one, but regardless, you'd like to see a better result than 3 goals on 16 shots against, no?), all of that strong play in most of the game looked like it was going to go for naught. Fortunately, for the first time in a while, the Flyers were able to rely to their power play to try and save the day -- and boy, did it ever.
All three Flyers goals tonight game with the Oilers playing a man down (or two men down, in the case of the third), and all three of them were the end result of some solid execution -- a patented Claude Giroux one-timer from the right circle that was tipped in by Wayne Simmonds, a beautiful sequence of passes across the zone that Simmonds was able to tap in, and a one-timer from Timonen from the top of the slot on the 5-on-3 that was deflected in by Hartnell. So often in recent years past, it seemed like the power play would win this team hockey games sometimes. It hasn't seemed like that's gone on much this year, but it was pretty unarguably the case tonight.
That PP pushed the Flyers to OT and eventually the shootout, where, uh ... they won. They actually won. A nice move from Michael Raffl gave the Flyers the clincher. Sometimes it all works out like it's supposed to.
* A lot of talk about the power play above, but the penalty kill was also a highlight tonight. Poor discipline from the Flyers put the Oilers out on the PP five different times, and only a bad-luck bounce off of a sliding Nicklas Grossmann prevented them from going spotless. They only allowed three shots on goal across those five penalty kills, which is great.
* Full possession/shot attempt numbers for this game are just hilarious. Every Flyer other than Vincent Lecavalier came out with more attempts for than against, and the total count was 57-26 Flyers. That will win you most hockey games.
* (Related side note: anyone else getting worried about Vincent Lecavalier? His numbers haven't looked good and he's just seemed a step behind most of the guys he's playing with lately. Not a good sign.)
* So the power play was good, the penalty kill was good, and the even strength play was good. Can't believe the Flyers came within about six minutes of losing this game in regulation.
* That said, there were some truly bad plays at points from ... just about every one of the D-men, now that I think about it. Goof-ups from Coburn, Streit and Grossmann all led right to Edmonton's three goals, and bad giveaways from Meszaros and Schenn led to quality chances the other way late in the third when the game was tied. Gotta clean those up, plain and simple, as those are backbreakers in a game where you're playing way better than the other team.
* With two assists tonight, Claude Giroux is up to 35 points in 38 games, and is 11th in the NHL in total assists. Gonna laugh so hard when Hockey Canada chooses Chris Kunitz over him for the Olympics.
* Regarding the big storyline: you could tell who thought it WAS a big storyline and all, since the CSN Philly guys reeeeeeeeeeeeally were pushing the "Bryz isn't playing well" thing for a lot of the evening. That said, I thought he was probably the biggest reason that the Flyers didn't run the Oilers out of the building.
* Finally, good on the Flyers to show some solidarity with their fellow city sports teams and beat a team whose coach is named "Dallas" the day before the Eagles play a huge game against the Cowboys. Dallas sucks.
Questions to Answer:
- So. Flyers vs. Ilya Bryzgalov. How's that go? Given that the Flyers controlled a large majority of the shots and had several good chances, Bryz played a pretty good game. 35 stops on 38 shots against is respectable. Flyers definitely kept him busy.
- Steve Downie's first game after missing some time last week, and he's on the fourth line. How does he do while playing somewhere other than on Couturier's wing for the first time in months? He absolutely destroyed the Oilers on possession and looked good in spot appearances on other lines. Looks like he's healthy. That said, he only played 9:45 so who knows.
- The Flyers are well-rested in their first game in five days, while the Oilers played last night. Can they control the play in a favorable situation like that? After the first four minutes, yep. The Flyers overwhelmingly were the better team for most of this game.
Comment of the Night:
Jake looks like a Ginger Santa
-- Chris in SJ, who's clearly still in the holiday spirit.
10 p.m. start again on Monday, this time in Vancouver. Go Flyers.