Ilya Bryzgalov won’t be cheap, but will he be worth it for the Flyers?

It’s more or less human nature to want to fit in and “keep up with the Joneses.” There are at least two fundamental problems with that mindset, though: 1) it is expensive to stay on top of trends and buy the latest gadgets and 2) you might lose your own identity in the process.

The Philadelphia Flyers seem primed to finally kowtow to conventional wisdom by locking up Ilya Bryzgalov to a hefty, possibly long-term deal. Rumors are floating around that he could want as much as $6-$7 million per year or a dangerously lengthy deal if Philly wants to shave down the cap hit a bit.

While many people fixate on his 12-13 career postseason record (even though he still has a respectable .917 save percentage in his playoff career), there are two bigger questions that make the Flyers’ quest to nab Bryzgalov a little bit worrisome.

1. Will Bryzgalov thrive in Philly?

While the Phoenix Coyotes allowed more shots than you might expect from a supposedly stingy defense, it still seemed like the team’s M.O. revolved around limiting scoring chances. Every team claims that as one of their objectives, but the Flyers tend to attack far more on offense. Much like Tomas Vokoun – a nice goalie who played on two conservative teams in Florida and Nashville – I cannot help but wonder if Bryzgalov will struggle in a more wide-open system. (Especially if Chris Pronger’s healthy days are behind him.)

There is also the hard-to-ignore factor of the brutal Philly market. Breezy is a colorful character who might be a little sensitive to criticism at times. He had it easy in two far-from-intense markets in Anaheim and Phoenix, but how will he respond when the vultures circle him in low moments in the City of Brotherly Love?

2. Could a Bryzgalov signing dilute the impressive depth that made Philly special to begin with?

One thing people continuously overlook is the fact that the Flyers are able to afford more quality players because they don’t overspend on goalies. As I pointed out in this post, 11 out of the 14 teams who missed the playoffs spent $3.5 million or more on a single goalie while half of the teams who made the postseason went with more affordable options.

The Flyers are already hard against the cap with Ville Leino among their pending free agents, so they will need to shed some useful players to have a chance to afford Bryzgalov. The difficult question arises: would they still be an elite team in a more top-heavy form?

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Signing Bryzgalov would make executives happy, soothe irritated fans and force media members to come up with a different storyline after hammering the same point for what seems like decades. But when you look around the league, it’s clear that plenty of teams aren’t doing that well even if they’re paying exorbitant prices for their goalies. The goalie position is undeniably important in hockey, but making a huge investment in such an unstable property is proving again and again to be a big gamble.

The Flyers are one of the most consistently successful NHL franchises because they do things their way, but it seems like they’re finally going to do what everyone insists they must. Their front office is bright enough to find a way to blend a more shallow roster with a more stable goaltender into something special, but I cannot help but wonder if they’re making a mistake by striving for the status quo.

At least they’ll get the chance to answer a different set of questions if this option flops, though, right?

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Is it a slump or is regression setting in for the Winnipeg Jets?

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Might regression be hitting the Winnipeg Jets at the moment?

It’s a question Jets fans are asking themselves after a three-game road trip that produced just a single point and a goose egg in the win column.

It’s the first time the Jets have lost three straight all season. In year’s past, this wouldn’t have come as much surprise, but the Jets have thrown the status quo out the window this season and have sung a different tune.

The analytics would suggest the Jets were due for a fall back to earth.

For most of the season, they’ve been near the bottom of the league in terms of Corsi, with only recently climbing up that ladder with a help of a very lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.

Regression in goal is also starting to happen, and a lot of Winnipeg’s early-season success had to do with how well Connor Hellebuyck had been playing.

Hellebuyck has been sensational most of the season and his 15-3-4  record supports that. But his save percentage has been trending in the wrong direction lately. In five of his past six starts, Hellebuyck has only achieved a .900 save percentage or better once, and that came in that 5-0 shutout against the Senators.

Nov. 27 vs MIN: .895
Nov. 29 vs COL: .885
Dec. 1 vs VGK: .871
Dec. 3 vs. OTT: 1.000
Dec. 5 vs DET: .844
Dec. 9 vs TBL: .857

The Jets give up a lot of shots, so the odds that Hellebuyck’s early season numbers would survive throughout the year were low.

The sky is by no means falling in Winnipeg. The Jets showed they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on Saturday. Overtime has just been the bane of their existence this season with a 0-5 record in free hockey.

The Jets touched the summit of the Western Conference last week, a pipe dream around these parts in recent times. They also possess two of the league’s top point-producers (Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) and one of the league’s top goal scorers (Patrik Laine), not to mention having a rookie just outside top 10 in rookie scoring (Kyle Connor).

Prior to the road trip, Winnipeg’s power play had scored eight times in 19 attempts.

The Jets have also been largely healthy. Defenseman Toby Enstrom is the midst of an eight-week spell in the press box — and there’s a pending diagnosis coming for Dustin Byfuglien after he left Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury — but the Jets gotten by relatively unscathed thus far and managed well when Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry missed several games.

The Jets have made too many strides this season to regress too far away from where they are right now. Asking a team to go from outside the playoff line to tops in the division might be asking a tad too much. But with that said, the Jets are simply a good team these days and stacked with high-level talent.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Calgary Hitmen fans make 24K stuffed animals fly during Teddy Bear Toss (Video)

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Congratulations, Vladislav Yeryomenko, you were this year’s Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

Yeryomenko’s goal at 9:36 of the first period during their game Sunday vs. the Moose Jaw Warriors was the sign for Hitmen fans to launch their teddy bears inside the Saddledome. Boy, it sure did rain plenty of fur.

Here’s what it looked like:

And here’s a fan’s eye view:

After a clean up delay of approximately 40 minutes , the game resumed but the Hitmen would fall to the Warriors 6-3. The counting, as you would imagine, took some time, but when they were finished it was announced that an astounding 24,605 stuffed animals were collected, which will go to 60 local charities.

“It’s an unforgettable moment,” Yeryomenko said via the Hitmen website. “It’s possible it can only happen once in your life and it happened to me. I enjoyed the moment of it all.”

There were 23,924 stuffed animals tossed during last year’s game, and the Hitmen hold the record of 28,815 bears, which was set in 2015.

The Hitmen have been holding this event since 1995 and are their fans are the true leaders in tossing those bears. Including this Sunday’s total, the team has collected 347,948 stuffed animals for local charities. Just last weekend the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears held their Toss event and fans there set a team record with an impressive 25,017 stuffed animals hitting the ice.

This once again proves that the Teddy Bear Toss is the greatest promotion in all of sports.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.