Bryzgalov takes two steps forward...
One giant step back.
Following Sunday afternoon’s frustrating 5-2 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers, it can be said that Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov took one giant step back.
The loss officially sealed the season series for the Rangers with two games still remaining. It also allowed the team to increase their lead in the Atlantic division standings by five points with two games in hand.
However, the most disappointing dynamic of the loss is the fact that Bryzgalov played fairly well for a large majority of the game.
Unfortunately, it was the few instances where he didn’t play his best that loomed largest.
The troubled 31-year-old turned away 13 of 14 shots faced in the first period, with the lone goal coming on a difficult deflection 64 seconds into the game.
While the goal could have resulted in the game spiraling out of control, it was merely a bump in the road as Bryzgalov masterfully controlled the rest of the period.
In fact, for the first 39:54 of the game, Bryzgalov was going stride-for-stride with one of the league’s best goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist.
Then came the final five seconds of the second and a soft goal from Marion Gaborik.
While some were quick to label the goal as a ‘backbreaker,’ the Flyers bounced back almost immediately as Wayne Simmonds tied the game 57 seconds into the third.
Then came another soft goal 36 seconds later and with it went the game.
The ramifications of the loss for the Flyers are obvious. The team has now lost six consecutive games to the Rangers and allowed their bitter rivals to continue to build on their lead in the standings.
For Bryzgalov, the result isn’t as clear.
The two goals spoiled an otherwise strong performance. The headlines now talk about his continued inconsistency rather than a newfound resiliency.
Since returning from the All-Star break, the goaltender has looked solid.
In his first game back, Bryzgalov held a Winnipeg Jets team that had previously scored a total of 16 goals in two games against the Flyers, to a lone goal in 65-minutes of play.
Two days later, he replicated the performance against the Nashville Predators when he held the team to a single goal as well.
On Saturday afternoon, Bryzgalov relieved Sergei Bobrovsky in a 6-0 blowout at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.
While the goaltender only had to face eight shots, the performance displayed something that hadn’t been seen previously in Bryzgalov.
A calming presence.
Looking more confident than he had at any other point this season, Sunday was a chance for the goaltender to display that he was capable of carrying the team on his back.
He ultimately came up short.
Bryzgalov has displayed that he is in the process of turning things around.
He has held opponents to one goal in four of his last six starts and amassed a record of 3-1-2 in that span.
However, in the other two starts he allowed four and five goals respectively.
The opponents in those games?
None other than the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
While things look like they are going to get better for Bryzgalov long before they begin to get worse, the unfortunate reality of the situation is that he missed a huge opportunity to silence his critics.
New York and Boston are clearly two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
For a young Flyers team that scores goals at will, the only thing that separates them from their rivals is a consistent defensive performance, which was exactly the reason Bryzgalov was brought here; to keep the team in tight games against difficult opponents.
To this point he hasn’t done that.
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