Thursday, March 1, 2012

Flyers Look to Start Playoff Push Over Last Twenty Games

The Flyers look to put their tough road trip behind them as they take on the New York Islanders at home tonight at 7:00 pm.

With a record of 2-2, the Flyers 10 day road trip did not go exactly as planned. Looking beyond the .500 record, the Flyers failed to get a regulation win and played from behind most of the games. Even more discouraging is that the Flyers were shut out twice.

The road trip helped drop them to 4-5-1 in their last 10.

Coach Peter Laviolette attempted to switch things up by game 4 of the trip, against the San Jose Sharks. Lavs juggled both the forward lines and the defensive pairings. However, the change did not bring the spark desired and the Flyers offensive continued to be underwhelming.
Brygalov looks to continue his recent progress.

Now the Flyers must rebound against a struggling Islanders team with 20 games remaining. At the 62 game mark, the Flyers sit 6th in the East. However, they are only three points behind the Penguins for 4th, with a game in hand.

The key to a strong playoff run is not how you start the year, it is how you finish.

The Flyers would serve themselves best to take advantage of the final 20 to climb up the standings and get a streak going into mid-April. We saw last year the difficulty a slow finish to the year can bring in the playoffs. Last year the Flyers went 7-7-6 in their final 20 games. That lackluster performance carried over to the post season where the  Flyers struggled to beat the Sabres and then were crushed by the Bruins.

Tonight's game can either set things in motion for a deep playoff long or send the team further down the rabbit hole.

Good news is that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is starting to come around. Still vulnerable to 1st period weak goals, Bryz has rebounded after weak goals with much more poise than earlier this year.

But without help from the team, Bryz has been hung with "Ls" for his best play of 2012. The offense, as two shutouts show, has been inconsistent. Relying on late game pushes, the forwards have come out of the gate slow, staying on the perimeter and failing to take opportunities to shoot.
Flyers' role players may be key to ending offensive woes.

The defense has not played much better, backing in constantly on Bryz. Whether or not the poor play of Bryzgalov this year has caused the defense to shy away from aggressive play, the result is the same. The opposing team gains offensive zone with ease, allowing them more scoring chances.

I expect the Flyers' net minder to continue where he left off. He may be still shaky at times, but the steady progress will pay dividends in the post season.

The Flyers skaters need to come out strong in the first 20 minutes. The Islanders may be 14th in the East but they are as desperate as the Flyers for a win. The Islanders are the mirror image of Philly in their last ten, 4-5-1.

We will see if the Flyers continue the lines from San Jose or if Laviolette will try something else to get the ball rolling.

I predict a strong showing from the Flyers tonight. Although still not able to come out strong, the Flyers rally behind a strong performance in net to get a 5-2 victory.

Brygalov will have an above .900 save % tonight and Max Talbot and his line spearhead the offense. The Flyers may need to rely on their workhorses to dig them out of their recent scoring problems.

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