Better With Popcorn

Bryzgalov: A matter of perspective

Life is all about perspective.

We all see the world differently and while we gauge opinions on a polarizing scale of right and wrong, it’s important to remember that there can be a middle ground between the two.

When two individuals are presented with an object, those two people could see two completely different things when looking at that same object.

This is certainly the case when discussing the Philadelphia Flyers.

After a strong first half to the season, the team has been stuck in a rough patch since the beginning of February. For weeks now, discussions over goaltending and defense have dominated conversation.

After adding Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina to the vaunted defense corps, the Flyers struggles in goal are once again the main focal point.

This was especially true when looking at the team’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.

With Ilya Bryzgalov in net for his fifth consecutive start, the game started out about as horribly as possible.

After allowing two questionable goals and a third from a player with only four goals this season, the Flyers found themselves in another deep hole largely because of Bryzgalov.

Although he had a rocky start, he did manage to right the ship.

The only other goal that he allowed came on a penalty shot that was awarded a little too freely by the referee.

From there he redeemed himself in the shootout by making some impressive saves, especially considering how terribly he has struggled with them this season. Not to mention, the Flyers earned a much need two points because of Bryzgalov’s stellar, shut down effort in the glorified skills competition.

With that being said, it’s important to acknowledge that while Bryzgalov managed to come up big in the final portion of the game, he seemingly failed to show up at the start of it.

Realistically, the Flyers could have easily won the game, 4-1; instead they narrowly escaped it by the skin of their teeth.

Plain and simple, Bryzgalov has underachieved this year.

Some will view that assessment as picking on the struggling goaltender especially coming after a win.

Obviously, the team as a whole had a terrible start to the game. It’s not Bryzgalov’s fault that forwards turn over the puck or a defenseman picks up the wrong man.

However, when he doesn’t make saves that he is supposed to, it amplifies the miscues of the entire team.

Ultimately, he is being paid a humongous sum of money to be the goaltender in Philadelphia. If the forwards commit turnovers, if the defense falters, if assignments are blown, it’s supposed to be Bryzgalov who cleans up the mess.

That’s why the Flyers are paying him all that money.

To this point he hasn’t yet lived up to it.

He has yet to steal a game for the team and the moments where he bails out a teammate’s mistakes are few and far between. Realistically, instead of winning games because of Bryz, the Flyers are winning games in spite of him.

If the soft goals where infrequent occurrences, many would forget them much more quickly than they currently do but because they occur with such consistency it’s a little difficult to constantly give him a pass.

That’s where perspective begins to get in the way.

The positive way to view Saturday night’s win is that it was a small step in the right direction for Bryzgalov.

The negative way is to say that he’s taken plenty of small steps and the only consistent outcome is that he takes a step back.

Ultimately, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Either way, this whole situation will be a lot easier to assess when Bryzgalov starts playing at the level that the fans know he is capable of.

Until then, the fans will be left with the same polarizing discussion that they have been having for years; that same age old dilemma in Philadelphia that was supposed to come to an end this season.

That, at least, is something they all should be able to agree on.

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