The Philadelphia Flyers have been let down by one thing or another throughout the season. Either Flyers fans like myself have ranted about Ilya Bryzgalov letting us down while the offense was hot, or about how the offense went cold while Bryzgalov was hot. In Games 2, 3 and 4 against the New Jersey Devils, it was Bryzgalov who kept Philadelphia afloat as the offense let him down - but in the not-so-grand finale on May 8, everyone shared the blame.
The Flyers seemed to start off well enough with an early Max Talbot goal in Game 5, yet Bryzgalov then proceeded to have one last choke job in the next few minutes. After he let the Devils go up by 2-1 in almost no time, the offense continued its disappearing act and helped Philadelphia disappear for good with a 3-1 elimination defeat.
Technically, the Flyers did put more pressure on Martin Brodeur than they did in New Jersey. They were only outshot by 30-28 instead of 42-22 like in Game 4 - yet Philadelphia still had one more goal in Game 4. Despite getting more shots, the Flyers didn't have many better opportunities - and although Bryzgalov didn't have to stand on his head this time, he was still worse as well.
Over two minutes after Philadelphia got a 1-0 lead, Bryzgalov let New Jersey tie it back up on a Bryce Salvador tally. Yet the goal that will define him and his rough season for the next several months came minutes later, as he turned the puck right over and David Clarkson just had to tap the puck in.
Normally, the Flyers could be counted on to at least try and bail Bryzgalov out. But the second they fell behind on that giveaway, the game and the season was virtually over. Comebacks have been a way of life for Philadelphia this year, but it's a lot harder to do when it faces an opponent that barely gives up anything.
The once explosive Flyers offense was long gone in this series, while Bryzgalov no longer had enough to keep them afloat. All season long, Philadelphia's goal scorers and goalie could not get in sync, as only one of these areas could be hot at a given time. But although the offense and defense rarely soared at the same time, they could still struggle at the same time a lot easier.
This final loss was a total team effort, as both sides of the Flyers combined to finish the collapse. That may be the best, most bitterly ironic way for this season to have ended, as neither the offense nor Bryzgalov could bail them out any longer.
When only one part of a team's game is on fire at a given time, both sides usually collapse sooner or later. In the Flyers' case, it finally happened sooner than anyone expected just a week ago.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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