The Philadelphia Flyers‘ season is over. After a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Broadstreet Bullies once again fell short of their quest of capturing a Stanley Cup.
And although everyone in the City of Brotherly Love will once again want to blame the goaltending for the Flyers‘ shortcomings, Ilya Bryzgalov, despite his inconsistencies all season long and through the playoffs, is not to be held solely responsible for what will be another Cup-less year in Philadelphia.
Now, that may seem like an impossible argument to make. After all, it was Bryzgalov, who, in an attempt to do his best Martin Brodeur imitation, shot a puck right off the shaft Devils right winger David Clarkson, banking the puck off it and into the net, giving the Devils what would ultimately be the game-winning goal early in the first period.
Needles to say, this was a dumb play, even if Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timmonen put Bryz in a bad spot by passing the puck back to him.
But erroneous puck-handling errors aside, the Flyers have a whole host of other issues to blame for their failure to move on in the postseason.
For starters, their offense was tepid at best. They had single-digit shots on goal in eight of the last nine periods (not counting overtime in Game 3) coming into Game 5 and totaled 10 or more shots in a period just four times in the 15 regulation periods of the series. And coming off a series with Pittsburgh in which their power play was so dominant, the Flyers only managed to go just 3-for-19 with the extra man.
Their forecheck (thanks to the incredible puck-moving skills of Brodeur) was non-existent, their defense was overwhelmed by constant pressure from the Devils’ forwards and their lack of discipline (I’m looking at you, Claude Giroux) was totally unacceptable.
In fact, it’s actually because of Bryzgalov that the Flyers—who, outside of Game 1, were dominated territorially by the Devs for much of the series—were not completely destroyed on the score sheet.
There’s no question that Bryzgalov has to be better next season and prove he is worth his huge $51 million contract. But the Flyers also have to learn that just because you defeat your crosstown rivals in a series of arcade hockey, doesn’t mean the rest of the playoffs will be a walk in the park.