Inside the Flyers: Flyers regaining their confidence at home

as the Bruins' Shawn Thornton (22) flips over him. Bryzgalov has shutouts in the team's last two home victories. MICHAEL DWYER / Associated Press
as the Bruins' Shawn Thornton (22) flips over him. Bryzgalov has shutouts in the team's last two home victories. MICHAEL DWYER / Associated Press (Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov ducks)
Posted: March 18, 2012

BOSTON - After struggling at home for most of the season, the Flyers have finally discovered how to win at the Wells Fargo Center.

"It's tough to lose a game," veteran winger Jaromir Jagr cracked, "if you don't give up any goals."

Entering Sunday afternoon's highly anticipated matchup against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers have won four straight at home for the first time this season. They have allowed a total of five goals in those four wins, and Ilya Bryzgalov has shutouts in the last two home victories.

The Flyers are starting to play with more "jam" - coach Peter Laviolette's word - on home ice, and the timing couldn't be better. They need to reclaim the home-ice mystique, which used to be a trademark of this franchise, and carry it into the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.

With their modest home streak, the Flyers have 18 wins in 33 home games (18-10-5). Hey, it doesn't come close to the home records accumulated by the conference leaders, the New York Rangers (24-8-2 home record entering Saturday) and Ken Hitchcock's surprising St. Louis Blues (29-4-4), but lately they have taken steps in the right direction.

Before their home resurgence, the Flyers had more losses than wins at the Wells Fargo Center. They have finished with a losing home record just three times since 1970-71.

"I think guys were a little embarrassed," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "Playing in front of our home fans, they're very passionate and they're loud and it's a good time when you're winning. We were embarrassed losing in front of them."

Bryzgalov has (reluctantly) received most of the plaudits for the Flyers' recent success, but the team has focused on tightening the defense lately and it has limited opponents' quality scoring chances.

"The guys just feel real comfortable at home right now," center Claude Giroux said.

Ah, but the Penguins can take away that feeling. In their last visit to the Wells Fargo Center, they were minus Sidney Crosby but they still chased Bryzgalov by scoring three goals on 13 shots en route to a 6-4 win a month ago.

It served as a wake-up call of sorts. The Flyers haven't lost at home since that game, and the defeat helped cause them to change their priorities.

"It's been a huge commitment to defense," Matt Carle said. "We haven't had much trouble scoring goals throughout the season, but there was a bad stretch where we were giving up a lot. We needed to try to be better defensively as a team, as a five-man unit. You can see that now, with a lot more forwards chipping in and blocking shots. And the defensemen are trying to block more shots as well, and obviously Bryz is making the big saves when he needs to. He's making those big saves look easy, which is huge for him and huge for us."

At the end of February, the Flyers had yielded four or more goals in seven of their last 11 games. That's not the type of hockey conducive to having the city's first Stanley Cup parade since 1975.

In their first eight games this month heading into Saturday's shootout loss to the Bruins in Boston, the Flyers had seven wins, and they had allowed a total of seven goals in those victories. That's parade hockey.

"Hopefully, we can build off this come playoff time," said Carle, the Flyers' steady, unheralded defenseman. "It's a good time of the year to be playing like that."

The Flyers are fifth in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the streaking fourth-place Penguins. If the regular season ends that way, the teams will meet in the opening playoff round.

Refreshingly candid, Carle said it's not where the Flyers finish but how that is vital.

"I don't know if that's the most important thing right now," said Carle when asked if the Flyers could make a run at overtaking the Rangers and Pens. "You want to be playing playoff hockey down the stretch, and wherever we are in the standings, that's where we'll be.

"You see it time and time again, where it doesn't really matter where teams are in the standings, as long as you're in there [the playoffs] and anything can happen. It's not just in hockey, it's in all sports. You saw the Giants this year winning the Super Bowl. Just playing the right way at the right time."

A year ago, the Flyers faded down the stretch and fell from No. 1 to No. 2 in the East.

"We kind of lost it at the end of the year, so it was kind of a downer for us," Carle said. "This year, I think we're just trying to build and keep that playoff intensity."

Sunday, against their pals from Western Pennsylvania and in a setting where they have regained their mojo, would be a good time to continue the building.


Inside the Flyers: Taking Care of Bryz-ness

Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers' revived goalie, was unbeaten in seven March games entering Saturday's matinee in Boston. His March numbers heading into that game:

Rec.   GAA   Save%   Shots/Saves   SO

7-0    0.99    .965    202/195     4

- Sam Carchidi

 


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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