Penguins welcome struggling arch-nemesis Philadelphia to town
Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov shut out the Islanders, 7-0, Monday -- the worst home shutout of the Islanders in their history. It was also the 30th shutout of Bryzgalov's career.
Share with others:
He has not, Matt Cooke said Tuesday, been paying particular attention to how Philadelphia's season has been playing out. Or, for much of the time, unraveling.
Cooke was aware the Flyers have sputtered through much of the first month, but the Penguins winger didn't have many of the details committed to memory.
Likely wasn't aware of the precise record Philadelphia (7-9-1) will take into its game with the Penguins at 7:38 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center.
Or that the Flyers' offensive output has dropped from 3.17 goals per game last season to 2.65 in 2013.
Or that Philadelphia right winger Claude Giroux, hailed by many as the world's finest player last spring, has failed to earn a point in nine of his 17 appearances so far.
What Cooke realized, however, is that the Flyers are coming off a 7-0 victory Monday on Long Island, when they made a lot of those negative numbers look irrelevant.
"They got seven [Monday], that's all I know," Cooke said. "Seems a lot like the old Flyers."
And those are the Flyers the Penguins insist they expect to face tonight. Probably not a bad idea, since Philadelphia has made a habit of taking home a couple of points almost every time it has come to town the past couple of regular seasons.
The Flyers are 5-1 at Consol Energy Center, losing only the season finale in April that had no significance for either team.
It's worth noting, however, that Sergei Bobrovsky, traded to Columbus in June, is the only Flyers goalie to make a regular-season start at Consol Energy Center, presumably because he seemed to be infused with the spirit -- or, more to the point, the puck-stopping abilities -- of Bernie Parent anytime he entered the building.
Bobrovsky earned the victory in the first game played there, then ran off four more victories in a row before dropping that meaningless game to close out last season.
Philadelphia Flyers at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
- TV, Radio:
NBC Sports Network, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders:
Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ilya Bryzgalov for Flyers.
Will be trying to win consecutive home games for second time this season. ... RW James Neal has tied his career-high with four game-winning goals. ... Have at least one power-play goal in eight consecutive games.
Are 3-8 in away games. ... C Brayden Schenn has four-game points streak. ... Ranked second in league in hits before games Tuesday with 447.
- Hidden stat:
Flyers have scored two or fewer goals in 11 of their 17 games.
With Bobrovsky gone, Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to be in goal for the Flyers. There were times last winter when some segments of Philadelphia's fan base treated Bryzgalov almost like he had an "87" stitched to the back of his sweater, but he has been the least of the Flyers' problems this season.
Their biggest might be injuries. Philadelphia has no fewer than five players, including top-line winger Scott Hartnell and defenseman Andrej Meszaros, on injured reserve, whereas the Penguins have lost just 11 man-games because of injuries.
There seem to be other issues, though. The defense corps is missing the mobility of Matt Carle, who left via free agency, and Mezsaros, while Jaromir Jagr's departure as a free agent has created a void on the No. 1 line.
Indeed, Giroux has been forced to operate without the two wingers, Hartnell and Jagr, who helped him to elevate his game last season.
His 17-game statistics, five goals and eight assists, are relatively modest -- especially when it is considered that he picked up nearly a quarter of his points Monday -- but the Penguins have a genuine respect for the damage he can do.
"You can tell he's one of those elite talents," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "I think he was especially on fire last year. They had things going, that top line, and their power play. He racked up a lot of points that way.
"He's one of those guys who, when he gets the puck, you can just tell he's dangerous, that he's looking to make something happen.
"I know how I feel about who's the best player in the world, the top two, but I think last year, he was in the conversation."
Although Giroux has not had the space to operate that he did when Jagr and Hartnell were playing alongside him -- and it has shown on the score sheet -- he teamed with linemates Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to account for three goals and seven assists Monday on Long Island.
That outburst underscored how short-sighted it could be to assume that Giroux no longer is capable of an offensive rampage. Or to assume that the Flyers couldn't use the victory against the New York Islanders as the catalyst for a surge back toward the top of the Atlantic Division.
"One game is enough to get some confidence, to get some momentum to build on," Cooke said. "That doesn't mean they're out of the hole yet, but you have to start somewhere. That could be their start."
First Published February 20, 2013 12:00 am