April 11, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) guards the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in game one of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Philadelphia Flyers won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Will The Real Bryz Please Stand Up?

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

To say the Flyers new $51 million goalie was inconsistent this year is an understatement,  but to say that he was horrible is not being realistic with his numbers and actual play this season. Bryz’s composite numbers this year were very similar to his career average – GAA Career – 2.52, GAA 2011-12 Season – 2.48 and Save % Career – .915, Save % 2011-12 Season – .909. The old saying numbers don’t lie does ring true here, but as is the case most of the time they also do not tell the whole story. Ilya Bryzgalov’s arrival into town marked the end of an era. That being the era of the goalie carousel which began right after Hexy. Was it reasonable for us as fans to expect Bryz to skate into the crease and deliver a Stanley Cup his first season here behind a team that just went through a drastic off season of change? Of course not, but that’s what is great about a real sports city. Sky high expectations every season, every play. As much as the Flyers organization does not want to admit it that DOES affect a players mental state. When game 2 of the regular season means as much to a fan base as game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals that pressure can cause a player to crumble. It takes a certain kind of mental toughness to survive as an athlete in a big sports town. I do not consider it an excuse though especially if you sign as a free agent. You know what your getting into and could have went to a town with less pressure on it’s athletes. I think John Kruk said it best in front of the Philly faithful at CBP last August – “You hear players, media people say it’s tough to play in Philly in front of these fans. To those people, I say, you didn’t have the guts to succeed here.”

In the beginning of the season we all saw that the biggest problem Bryz had was miscommunication with his new D in front of him. He also struggled with puck handling and that was never really fixed as evident in game 5 round 2, but hey he’s never going to be a Mike Smith or Marty Brodeur puck handling type goalie so that’s really a smaller concern. He will just have to stop attempting to play the puck as much. I believe the communication between Bryz and the D got much better as the season went on though and they were really clicking in the month of March as Bryz was smoking hot and was named NHL Player of the Month. Between March 4th and March 13th Bryz recorded 4 shutouts and on March 15th Bryz broke the Flyers record for longest shutout streak. His streak was ended at 249:43 by Michael Grabner of the Islanders. The record was formerly held by John Vanbiesbrouck.

The month of March for Bryz was in sharp contrast to the way he had performed earlier in the season most notably in a 9-8 loss to the Jets on October 27th in which after the game he gave his “lost in the woods” comments to reporters. That month of March though is what I believe will become the norm for the majority of Ilya’s career in Philly. We as fans had been told he was our savior so obviously we expected nothing less than a Stanley Cup and Vezina trophy to boot. He was not prepared for the pressure. Now he’s had a season to adjust to the limelight. Before the Winter Classic Jeremy Roenick could be heard talking to Bryz and he said to him ” if this city gets a Stanley Cup it’s going to be because of you.” JR tells no lies.

-John LaMarra

Twitter – @popesnipes77

E-Mail – [email protected]

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