Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.
Across the 472 regular season or postseason games he has played in his NHL career, Matt Read has scored 18 game-winning goals. Seven of those 18 game-winners came during the 2011-12 regular season and postseason, his first season in the NHL after the Philadelphia Flyers signed him to an entry-level contract out of Bemidji State University in March of 2011. His first game-winner came on November 13, 2011 in a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on the road, as he did just enough to convert on a shorthanded penalty shot early in the third period.
Read’s next game-winning goal came just four days later in a game that probably meant a lot to one of his teammates. The summer of 2011 featured a lot of notable roster moves for the Flyers. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are without a doubt the most memorable departures, but the Orange and Black also separated from Ville Leino, Kris Versteeg (which worked out well for Philly), Brian Boucher, Nikolai Zherdev, Darroll Powe, Daniel Carcillo, Blair Betts, Sean O’Donnell, and Nick Boynton. To go along with Read, the list of players who joined the Flyers that season included Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr, Sean Couturier, Max Talbot, Harry Zolnierczyk, Brandon Manning, Kevin Marshall, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Brayden Schenn, and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov wasn’t the most skilled player added that offseason, but he grabbed a lot of the attention due to the roster movement involved to land him. Thanks to Peter Laviolette’s Traveling Goaltending Carousel Tour of 2011, there was a fair amount of pressure on then general manager Paul Holmgren from owner Ed Snider to go out and get a goalie. Unfortunately, Holmgren settled on Bryzgalov at the cost of Richards and Carter for cap space. Bryzgalov didn’t fail to provide memorable moments with the Flyers (like his quotes during the HBO 24/7 series or when he dodged the puck on a save attempt), but he didn’t have much success in his two seasons with the club, as he finished with a .905 save percentage in the Orange and Black.
Before his time with Philly, Bryzgalov spent four seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes. To replace Bryzgalov, the Coyotes signed Mike Smith. With a career save percentage of .912 and a goals against average of 2.71 over 13 seasons, Smith’s time in the NHL hasn’t exactly been spectacular. With that being said, the highlight of his career was probably that 2011-12 season, when he finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting with a 38-18-10 record, a .930 save percentage, and eight shutouts. He then carried the Coyotes to the Western Conference Finals with a .944 save percentage and three clean sheets during the 2012 postseason.
As the two clubs were getting used to their new goalies early in the 2011-12 campaign, Bryzgalov and Smith squared off in Philly on November 17, 2011. Bryzgalov entered the matchup with a record of 7-4-2, an .899 save percentage, and one shutout while his replacement in Phoenix had an 8-2-3 record with a .933 save percentage and one blanking. Needless to say, the worry of whether or not Bryzgalov was a product of then Coyotes’ head coach Dave Tippett’s defensive system had already started.
In a battle of goalies trying to prove a point, a low-scoring game occurred on this particular evening. After a goalless opening frame, the first big moment came when Zac Rinaldo dropped the gloves with Kyle Chipchura, who had three inches and 23 pounds on the Flyers’ fighter, 3:38 into the second period.
Almost nine minutes after the bout, James van Riemsdyk gave the Flyers the lead with the game’s first goal. As Kimmo Timonen joined him on a 2-on-1 rush, JVR worked Rostislav Klesla back towards Smith before he ripped one by the netminder.
Thanks to a glove save by Bryzgalov on Ray Whitney near the close of the frame, Philadelphia carried the one-goal lead into the third period, but Phoenix was able to level the score at one thanks to a Mikkel Boedker tally Bryzgalov probably wanted back with 16:22 left in regulation.
It looked as though these would be the only goals in regulation, but thanks to Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris’ attempt to prove he didn’t hook Jakub Voracek, the Flyers escaped with a regulation win. After Chris Pronger tossed the puck into the opposite corner during a cycle in the final seconds of the game, Voracek retrieved the puck and moved towards the blue line along the side wall. In the process, Morris got his stick tangled up in Voracek’s midsection and raised his hands to alert the refs he didn’t do anything wrong. Thanks to his recognition that Morris skated away from him in an attempt to avoid a penalty late in the game, Voracek spun around and flung a puck on Smith. The goalie produced a rebound right to Talbot in front, who quickly slid it over to Read on the other side of the crease for the game-winning goal with 18.6 seconds left in regulation.
After a Boedker shot was blocked by Timonen and a faceoff that followed an icing in the final seconds, the Flyers edged out a win over the Coyotes. Although he may have wanted the lone goal against him back, Bryzgalov got the win with 30 saves on 31 shots against. As for Smith, he provided one of his seven 40-save efforts of the 2011-12 regular season on 42 shots against, but it was one of his three losses where he posted at least that many saves. Smith may have gotten the last laugh during the 2011-12 season, however, as Bryzgalov posted an .887 save percentage in the 2012 postseason and some more memorable moments while the Flyers were eliminated in the second round by the New Jersey Devils.
As for Read, he wouldn’t provide another game-winner in a one-goal game until April 5, 2012, when he scored with 4:21 left in regulation to help the Flyers beat the Buffalo Sabres. He finished his rookie season with 24 goals, 23 assists, 47 points, and 155 shots on goal, all career highs for Read in a single season. The forward also accrued three of his five career postseason goals and two of the five career postseason assists during the 2012 postseason.
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