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Bryzgalov Left Helpless as Early Season Stumbles Continue

There is no player or personnel in the Philadelphia Flyers’ organization that entered the 2013 NHL season with more pressure on his shoulders than Ilya Bryzgalov.

When the news broke five or so weeks ago that the NHL was willing to accept compliance buyouts to help teams get under the salary cap for the 2013-14 NHL season, many casual observers quickly pointed to the 32 year-old netminder as an obvious candidate for buyout consideration.

Bryzgalov will have seven more years left on his $51 million contract after this season, costing the Flyers $5.67 million in cap space annually.

While that contract would be difficult to fulfill for any player (especially in as volatile a position as goaltender), the risk was certainly magnified by Bryzgalov’s shaky inaugural season in Philadelphia. He finished the 2011-12 NHL season with decent numbers, helped in no small part by a 249 minute shutout streak in March, but the 37 goals allowed in 11 playoff games soured much (if any) of the goodwill he had earned for himself by then.

I get it. “Philadelphia is a goalie graveyard,” “Philadelphia hasn’t had a good goalie since Ron Hextall,” “Looks like another goalie controversy in Philadelphia,” etc. It’s a stereotype that this city will never live down, much like that one time 45 years ago Eagles fans threw snowballs at a homeless man in a red suit.

Thankfully, Bryzgalov has apparently tuned out the criticisms and cliches in the offseason; he has unquestionably been the most consistent player on the roster to date.

Through seven games played, Bryzgalov has earned a 2.31 goals-against-average and a 0.918 save percentage, good enough to rank 6th among 24 goaltenders with at least five games played. He’s outplaying Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury.

There’s just been little to no support from the rest of the team.

The defense has been “competent” to start the season- not particularly good, but not glaringly bad either. In the 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night, though, the team gave up two turnovers that led to breakaways (and goals).

The Flyers as a group are tied for 7th in the NHL with 39 giveaways and rank 26th in takeaways. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you- they are turning the puck over a lot.

If you toss out the 7-1 blowout against the Florida Panthers (in which two of their best players were sidelined with injuries), the team expected to support Bryzgalov has scored just 8 goals in 6 games. They have struggled in both the face-off circle (46% success rate) and on the powerplay (5-for-40).

Ilya Bryzgalov is the Cliff Lee of the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.

When the compliance buyout discussions began, the common conclusion was that Bryzgalov “would have to earn his contract” if general manager Paul Holmgren and owner Ed Snider were to not exercise the “Brain Fart” clause of the collective bargaining agreement.

If Bryzgalov maintains this level of play in the next two months (and that’s still a huge “if”), he will have earned his tenure. If the offense doesn’t settle down quickly, though, there are more than a few forwards who will be taking Bryzgalov’s place on the hotseat.

For the latest Flyers news and updates, you can follow me on twitter (@JoshJanet).

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Posted by on Feb 1 2013. Filed under BREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments for “Bryzgalov Left Helpless as Early Season Stumbles Continue”

  1. JJ, it’s gonna be a long, disappointing season… 8,,(

  2. What’s Simmonds Status ?? Heard he was injured, not sure how serious..
    This Teams 10-12 Forwards as a Group are just not very explosive or very consistent outside of Giroux,Briere, and maybe youngsters Vorachek,Schenn.. with Harntell and possibly now Simmonds out too.. Who is going to Score..
    Like PHils last Year who averaged under 3 Runs a game the first 3 Months of the Season that did them in, the Flyers are struggling to score 2 Goals a Game and you are not going to win many NHL Games with an anemic Offense like that just the Phils didn’t win many games averaging less than 3 Runs Scored a Game..

  3. Get rid of him, he’s always going to be average at best. This team is going nowhere fast and is in danger of missing the playoffs altogether (in a league where 16 teams make it to the playoffs). Laviolette appears to be going backwards as a coach and will most certainly be jettisoned if the Flyers don’t make it to the playoffs. It may be time to start over with this squad, trade away the Briers and Hartnells and any of the high priced older guys and get draft picks.

  4. Is there anyone other than Simmonds and Bryz who has been playing well?

    I’m sorry, but when an entire team, even one as only modestly blessed with talent as the Flyers are right now, is sluggish, sloppy, a step behind, and giving away the puck all game – the problem is the coach. Every player except two performing badly isn’t a coincidence.

    You can’t line-juggle out of this, either. That’s a useless effort. Lavy’s track record is to make a huge impact immediately upon getting his head coach assignment. Then after that, it’s downhill. The expected dropoff between years 2 and 3 didn’t materialize. This year seems to be making up for that on a grand scale.

    Bottom line is there will be no improvement under this coach unless we trade every single player. But the only thing more depressing that seeing Lavy behind the bench is picturing Terry Murray back there. Murray’s Cup loss in 97 was terrible coaching on an epic scale and I can’t believe the guy is back in the system, threatening to coach here once again.

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