The Flyers’ first period on Saturday afternoon was just about the exact one you could expect after not skating together since May 8.
With 7 minutes remaining, the Flyers had more icing calls (4) against them than they had shots on goal. Passes were sloppy, bouncing off skates. Players were repeatedly whistled for being offsides.
Heading into Sunday’s back-to-back matinee with Buffalo, the Flyers have plenty of positives to build on for Game 2. They dominated most of the second-half of Saturday’s clash with the Penguins, but fell short.
Few positives were more important (or impressive) than Ilya Bryzgalov in net. In fact, you could make the argument that Bryzgalov was the Flyers’ top player on Saturday.
Off the ice, Bryzgalov seems like he had settled into his role with the Flyes over the course of the NHL’s 119-day lockout. He seemed more confident, cool and relaxed in interviews - certainly more comfortable in his own skin.
That transferred to the ice.
Yes, the Flyers trailed 2-0 in the first 8 minutes of Saturday’s game, but Bryzgalov could hardly be faulted for either goal. The first was deflected off Tyler Kennedy’s stick in the waning seconds of a Pittsburgh power play.
“On the second goal, I think we just fell asleep off the draw,” Scott Hartnell said. “It’s not like we didn’t scout that before. We had video of it. They showed it. I think we were just messed up on our coverage.”
Bryzgalov settled in for the rest of the contest, stopping 24 of 26 shots, while pitching a shutout over the final 2 periods. Without Bryzgalov, the Penguins could have jumped out to a bigger lead in the first period. He bailed out the Flyers on numerous occasions.
Bryzgalov, 32, still had his issues. He had an issue seeing the puck, bobbling a couple longer saves from near the blue lines. He just seemed so much more athletic on Saturday, so ready and eager to prove he is worth his $51 million deal to fans.
“He looked like he has all week,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He was very focused and strong.”
The Flyers’ power play was the difference on Saturday, failing to convert on two different opportunities in the final 5 minutes. That wasn’t on Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov gave the Flyers a chance to win. That’s all the Flyers have been asking for since he arrived.
“He was good,” Kimmo Timonen said. “If he plays like that, and we can get him help, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
LUKE SCHENN HURT? Defenseman Luke Schenn probably did not string together his best first impression as a Flyer on Saturday. Turns out, there may be a reason for that.
Schenn, 23, played 17:23 over 27 shifts. He finished with 1 shot on-goal, 2 giveaways and 1 takeaway.
After the game, Schenn was limping badly as he left the Flyers’ training room. It was impossible to tell what exactly was bothering him - and I don’t seem to recall any specific incident which might lead to an explanation.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told the Daily News there are “no injuries” when asked specifically about Schenn and his status for Sunday afternoon’s game in Buffalo.
(For the record; James van Riemdsyk, traded straight up for Schenn in the offseason, played 13:48 with one shot.)
> LOCKOUT-PROOF? Certainly seems like Philadelphia might be one of those “lockout proof” markets. The Flyers have seen an increase in season-ticket sales. And they set a new regular season attendance record on Saturday (19,994) breaking their Feb. 2009 record, also against Pittsburgh, by 2 fans.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers