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Flyers Vs. Penguins ECQF: Numbers Don't Tell Whole Story With Bryzgalov

It has been a wild start to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. After two games, the series is heading to Philadelphia, with the Flyers up 2-0. 

The Flyers’ offense has undoubtedly been a huge factor in the first two games of the series. Another big factor, one that has been overlooked, is the play of netminder Ilya Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov has given up eight goals in just two games, but those numbers don’t speak to his full performance and contributions.

He gave up three goals in the first period of Game 1, but shut the Penguins down for the next two periods. In Game 2, Bryzgalov gave up three goals in the first period, but held the Penguins to just two more during the rest of the game.

During the first period of Game 2, Bryzgalov absolutely robbed Kris Letang of a goal by making a spectacular glove save when the Flyers were already down by two. Twenty-two seconds later, the Flyers scored their first goal, a Max Talbot wrister.

Looking back at the game overall, that glove save might not mean much, but it did change the momentum at that point in time.

In net, neither Bryzgalov nor Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury have put on particularly brilliant performances. Fleury has a .804 save percentage and a 5.45 goals-against average in the first two games. Bryzgalov’s numbers are better (.857 save %, 3.93 GAA), but still not great.

However, it’s what has happened on the ice that tells a better story than what is on the scoresheet.

Bryzgalov has never faltered, despite giving up a few goals. Fleury, on the other hand, has looked lethargic whenever the Flyers have tied the game up or taken a lead. He gave up four unanswered goals in Game 1 and two in Game 2.

While neither goaltender in this series has strong numbers, Bryzgalov has been outperforming Fleury so far.

Confidence has been key for the Flyers’ netminder. Bryzgalov had an incredible month of March, causing the confidence in him from both the team and the fans to skyrocket.

Think back to last year’s playoffs. The goalie was pulled in five different games out of 13, and in three cases because they gave up three goals early.

If this were two months ago, Bryzgalov would have likely been pulled after given up three goals in one period. Now, he stays in. His coach and his teammates have confidence in him and it’s obvious that he has confidence in himself.

Bryzgalov no longer looks frazzled and sloppy after giving up a goal or two. He is poised and focused regardless of whether the team has the lead or is facing a deficit.

It’s still early in the series and as we’ve already witnessed, anything can happen. But so far, Bryz has been answering the call, and his play has been a large part of the Flyers’ success in the first two games.

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