One month ago, every Flyers fan would get sick to their stomach at the thought of Ilya Bryzgalov being a Flyers for the next decade. Now a days, the thought of it doesn't seem so bad. Bryz's play in recent weeks shows one of the biggest in-season turnarounds that had ever been demonstrated by an individual player.
His play as of late has made the Flyers a cup contender once again this season. The one thing that the team has been missing for 15 years (and was missing for the better part of this season) now seems to be the team's strongest point. But aside from Bryzgalov, who has pitched three straight shutouts and four in his last five games, playing like the franchise goalie everyone hopes he'd be, the rest of the team shows more confidence in front of their re-born goaltender.
When Bryzgalov (and even Sergei Bobrovsky) wasn't playing well earlier in the season, it was clear that the team was not confident playing in front of their goalie. Defensemen trying to do too much with the puck led to numerous turnovers, which resulted in prime scoring chances. These prime scoring chances would usually see the puck end up in the back of the Flyers' net more times than not. Bryzgalov's poor play resulted in defensive mistakes, and vise versa.
But that all changed in the shoot out of the Flyers' game against the Calgary Flames. When cameras caught Andrej Meszaros rolling eyes in disgust after Bryzgalov let in another weak goalie off the stick of Matt Stajan, it was clear the Flyers' players had zero confidence in their netminder. But once the shoot out came, this changed. Bryz stopped four of the five Calgary shooters, and this was the clear turning point for him this season.
Since this game, the Flyers and Bryz have played much better. Bryzgalov has played strong ever since, pitching four shutouts in that seven-game span (Bob got one of the eight starts since the Calgary game). The defense has also palyed much better in front of Bryz, minimizing the turnovers and clearing the crease more and more. The stronger play on the defensive side of the puck shows in the statistics too. In the past eight games, the Flyers team goals against average has been 1.25, while Bryz's has been 0.86 in his past seven starts.
All in all, the team's play shows more confidence in all parts of the game. With the team playing this well, there is no reason for them not to have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.