Bryzgalov Left Helpless as Early Season Stumbles ContinueBREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL Friday, February 1st, 2013
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.
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