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Drafted: Jan 19, 2013 7:00
With only one game of the 2013 season in the books, many opinions about how the Flyers will fare in the remaining 47 games are up in the air, yet no one player’s future is up for debate more than that of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
With his obscure rants concerning the universe and his nonchalant attitude towards losses Bryzgalov has, within one season, frustrated and worried the fans of Philadelphia. With a .909 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average last season, fans may have reason for concern that the streaky goaltender may cost the Flyers another chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
Despite dismay from fans, not all of Bryzgalov’s stats from last season were negative. Bryzgalov did manage to rack up 33 wins while in the net (only three less than in the 2011-2012 season with nine less games played). Bryzgalov also had four less losses and allowed 27 fewer goals in his first year with the Flyers than he had with the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2010-2011 season.
Though Bryzgalov’s numbers had been lackluster at times last season not all of the Flyers’ woes can fall on their goalie’s shoulders. With a team that couldn’t seem to stay healthy and a defense that never was the same after losing captain Chris Pronger, a lot of the blame for poor play can be spread around the Flyers’ organization. Some fault could even be laid on the desk of General Manager Paul Holmgren for not bringing in the defensive help Bryzgalov needed at last year’s trade deadline. Holmgren’s inability to replace an aging and injured back line with young, proven defensive players surely put more pressure on the already shaky goalie and impeded his ability to play the position effectively.
Bryzgalov is not the first Flyers’ goalie to have his season ride on the help he received from his defenders. During the 2009-2010 season Michael Leighton held a .920 save percentage with a 2.48 goals against average during the regular season, yet still made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. This in part, was due to aid from a backline which included the number three ranked defensive pair in the NHL consisting of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle who finished the regular season with a combined 56 points and a +11 rating.
In lieu of concerns for the goalie, Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette and owner Ed Snider feel Bryzgalov is still the man they want in the net for the start of the 2013 season and on Saturday afternoon they called his number to take on the high powered offense of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Through three periods of play Bryzgalov went 2 for 26 while facing almost nine minutes of a power play that was ranked fifth in the league last season, with the league leader in power play goals, James Neal and the number eight ranked Evgeni Malkin.
In spite of Bryzgalov’s play the Flyers still fell to their cross state rivals and started their season in the opposite direction that they were hoping. With the entire season left to play, no one can know for sure how this year will play out for the Flyers and their goaltender, but one thing is certain. With the disapproval of the fan base and the installation of the new CBA buyout clause Bryzgalov’s career with the Flyers will be riding on this season.