Second half provides a 'fresh' start for Bryz
The first half of the season did not go the way Ilya Bryzgalov hoped it would.
In the first 48 games of his nine-year contract, Bryzgalov failed to display the attributes that earned him $51 million and the trust of the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
The main purpose in signing the 31-year old Russian was to stabilize the most inconsistent position in the history of the storied franchise.
The result has been any thing but.
After winning his first three starts, Bryzgalov went winless in his next five (0-4-1), which he followed up with an impressive span of 11-1-1. After it looked like he had finally put it all together, Bryzgalov concluded the first half with an erratic record of 4-5-2, which saw him lose four straight, win two, lose two, then win two again.
His last start came in a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins in which he allowed five goals.
Although Bryzgalov’s 18-10-4 cumulative record isn’t terrible, it’s certainly not what was expected given the sacrifices the organization made to attain him.
While his record may not be terrible, his other statistics certainly are.
His save percentage has been under .900% for the majority of the season and currently sits at .895%. His goals against average hasn’t been much better and just recently was able to sneak the number under three (2.99 GAA to be exact); Not to mention he has allowed four or more goals 13 times this season.
In addition, Bryzgalov’s problems haven’t been exclusive to his on-ice activity.
He has an active personality and genuinely seems to be a light-hearted individual. Whether it’s in his media availability, HBO’s 24/7 or youtube videos, Bryzgalov has provided the fans with several memorable quotes.
However, some of his quotes have created some controversy.
After a poor performance against the Winnipeg Jets, he announced that he was lost in the woods and had lost his confidence. During his media availability at the Winter Classic, he announced that he was not going to be starting in the game and that his team actually had a chance to win because of it.
Both instances resulted in the Flyers trying to control his media availability.
Though circumstances have been bleak, Peter Laviolette recently came out and stated that Bryzgalov was brought to Philadelphia to be a workhorse and that is how he plans to use the goaltender.
Despite a less than stellar first half, Bryzgalov has the opportunity to put it all behind him. With a week off to relax, the goaltender can use the time to refocus himself for the stretch run to the postseason.
Ultimately, if he can put together a strong showing in the team’s final 34 games and can carry that over to the postseason, no one will even remember his slow start.
For him to do that, he will need to win games, perform consistently and bail his teammates out when they get into trouble.
To this point he hasn’t done that.
While he is getting a ‘fresh’ start, it’s important not to mistake that with an extended leash. Sergei Bobrovsky’s play has been strong, regardless of whom his opponents have been.
As the playoffs slowly begin to creep up, if Bryzgalov is unable to turn it around and Bobrovsky continues to perform well, the team needs to strongly consider allowing Bobrovsky to handle more responsibility than they have currently allotted him.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the team winning games.
The guy best suited to help the team do that is the guy who needs to be standing in goal.
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