The following is an understatement. The Philadelphia Flyers have had goaltending issues. The argument can be made that not since Ron Hextall’s initial stint, or as some might argue the late Pelle Lindbergh, have the Flyers had a “true” number one netminder. Sean Burke, John Vanbiesbrouck, Roman Cechmanek, Brian Boucher and Robert Esche are just a few of the names the Flyers have attempted to use in their attempt to acquire their third Stanley Cup. After a disappointing playoff run in 2010-2011, the Flyers have finally done something to address their need for a number one goaltender. However it seems now, they might just have two in Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky. Behold the Iron Curtain.
For the first time in Flyers history, and possibly the league, there is an all Russian goaltending duo. One comes from the age in the age of the Cold War, the other coming after the age of Glasnost. They are Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky Ilya Bryzgalov’s rights were acquired during the off-season and was signed to a multiyear deal worth 51 million dollars. He is one of the best goaltenders in the league the past few years as the winningest goalie the past two seasons with a record of 78-40-16 and a Vezina nominee in 2009-2010. A fierce competitor on the ice, and a fun loving guy off the ice, Bryzgalov could FINALLY be the goalie the Flyers have needed to get over that last obstacle and raise the Cup once again. The naysayers will point to last season’s playoff “collapse” in Phoenix, the counterpoint is that if not for Bryzgalov the Coyotes more than likely would not have even made the playoffs. Simply put, Bryzgalov is quite possibly the best goaltender the Flyers have had in the past 20 years. If he can deliver the hardware the city and its fans so desperately crave, he will be put up with the greats in Flyers history.
If Brygalov should falter, the Flyers currently have the luxury of having Sergei Bobrovsky anxiously awaiting his chance. Last year’s import phenom, Bobrovsky was all but abandoned in the playoffs by the coaching staff. The revolving door of goaltenders passed the man they call Bob by until game 4 of the second round series against Boston. To his credit he played well, but the entire team was outmatched. Although the blame always falls to the ones between the pipes, to lay it all at Bobrovsky’s feet would be criminal. Bobrovsky has shown up this year ready to work, and ready to win. He recently earned his first NHL shoutout, which was also the Flyers first shutout since the Eastern Conference Finals against Montreal in 2009.
The Flyers now have the one of the, if not the, best goaltending tandem in the league right now. Both Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky have save percentages over .915 and 25 or more wins. Most backup goaltenders don’t even get 25 starts, and the Flyers have one with 28 wins. It is safe to say however, that Bobrovsky probably won’t get another 50 or so starts, but a backup who can handle a workload is never a bad thing. It might not be a bad thing to see Bob start 25-30 games this year, as it will keep him in the game, as well as give Brygalov a bit of a rest. Bryzgalov has started 65 or more games the past three seasons, and while he is certainly not afraid to work, the slightly smaller workload could do wonders for his playoff performance.
On paper, the Flyers have appeared to solve their longstanding goaltending issues. How it will play out over the course of the season remains to be seen. One thing is certain, the pressure will be on the Philadelphia net minders. A Stanley Cup is probably a bit ambitious this season given the personnel changes, but the clock is ticking and ticking. The urge to end this with something deep has been over powered by the need to post a quote from our new goalie. Why you heff to be mad? Is only game. Hopefully, the Flyers will win a lot of them.