A Look At The 'New Guys': Ilya and Lilja on D
Welcome to the fourth installment of a five-part series focusing on the Flyers’ ‘new guys’ – offseason acquisitions, draft picks, and players who have made the jump from the AHL to the NHL. In this piece, we’ll be focusing on Andreas Lilja and Ilya Bryzgalov, both free agent offseason acquisitions.
On July 1st, the Flyers announced that they had signed veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja to a two-year, $1.5 millon deal.
After being released after a tryout with the San Jose Sharks last season, Lilja signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. In 52 games, he scored seven points and racked up 28 penalty minutes.
The thirty-six year old made the Flyers roster as the team’s sixth defenseman, and in 21 games so far with the squad, he has four points and 14 penalty minutes.
Lilja has flown under the radar so far this season. He hasn’t done much of anything that has been noticeable, neither good nor bad. His +/- rating of plus-4 is a positive sign, at least for those that believe plus-minus is an accurate rating of a player’s skill.
On November 25th, Lilja suffered a high ankle sprain during a game against Montreal and was expected to be out for six weeks. However, after only two weeks, he was taken off the LTIR and spent one game with Adirondack on a conditioning assignment before returning to the Flyers lineup.
With still plenty of time left in the season, here’s hoping that Lilja will make some sort of statement in Philadelphia – and a positive one, at that. He, along with his fellow defensemen, has the opportunity to step up and make a difference now, with Flyers captain and best defenseman Chris Pronger out for the season.
When the Flyers were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Eastern Conference Semifinals this past May, Flyers owner and chairman Ed Snider said, “We are never going to go through the goalie issues we've gone through in the last couple of years again.”
For years and years, the Flyers struggled to maintain solid and consistent goaltending. The organization and fans alike watched as the goalie carousel went ‘round and ‘round, and nothing seemed to stick.
That was all supposed to change when the Flyers signed former Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a monumental 9-year, $51 million deal.
Bryzgalov won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim back in 2007, and lead the Coyotes to the playoffs the last two years. Coming into this season, he had a career 2.55 goals-against average and a save percentage of .916.
There were a lot of expectations for Bryzgalov coming into this season, both from the Flyers organization and fans. And while he has been good – with a 14-6-3 record and an .898 save percentage – he certainly has not met those expectations yet. He has his good games and bad games, though he has been very sharp lately, going 6-1-1 in the month of December.
Bryz’s numbers don’t tell the full story of this goaltender, at least not during his time with Philadelphia. Goals resulting from defensive breakdowns in front of the net and bad bounces were not always his fault, but count against him statistically.
Off the ice, Bryzgalov has a quirky personality that has quickly gained him notoriety, especially after the first episode of HBO’s “24/7” aired and people all over the world heard his spiel on the universe. That personality helps to keep things light in the locker room and make it a better, more relaxed atmosphere.
Bryzgalov is a talented goaltender, and has the career numbers to prove it. He contributes to the team in various ways, both on and off the ice. If he can remain consistent in net, he will be a huge factor when the playoffs roll around – which is exactly what the Flyers expect out of him after signing that monster contract.