When the Philadelphia Flyers and GM Paul Holmgren acquired and signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract, it ended a run of over 20 years that saw the Flyers going season after season without a definitive top goalie. Ever since Ron Hextall’s first run in Philadelphia, the Flyers have been buying time with all sorts of hopeful guys to take charge that never panned out fully.
After rising to become a top goalie in the NHL himself, Bryzgalov now finds himself in one of the most pressure-filled situations in the NHL in trying to not only be the starting goalie for the Flyers, but to lead them to the team’s first Stanley Cup since 1975. That kind of challenge has eaten up a number of goalies in the past (where have you gone Roman Chechmanek?) but Bryzgalov says he welcomes all of it.
Q: Are you prepared to deal with the pressure of being the guy that is look to as in some ways a goaltending savior for this organization?
“I want to be. I want to be and I want to be the guy who can carry this team. I don’t know what else to say. I want to help this team win the Stanley Cup because people in Philadelphia and the organization have waited long enough. I want to win the Stanley Cup also and I think we have similar ideas, similar goals. That’s why we have to work hard and reach this goal. Pressure…we have to deal with the pressure every way and every day in our lives, hockey, everywhere.”
Talk can be cheap and Bryzgalov is talking awfully big here, something Flyers fans won’t soon forget should things turn south for the Flyers under his watch. One lingering thought left in the minds of Flyers faithful might be Bryzgalov’s performance in the playoffs against Detroit this past season that saw Detroit sweep out the Coyotes in the first round. Bryzgalov didn’t spill his guts too much about why things went how they did.
“Definitely I can play better. Last year I think with Detroit, in a seven game series, I think we had good chances but in Game 7 we just ran out of gas. This year’s playoff series we came in already running out of gas because we had a lot of injuries in the two month race for the playoff spot. It was crazy in the West and we had lots of injuries and players were hurt. I thought I should have played better, but maybe I was tired too. That’s why I made some once in a while mistakes. It’s hockey and I expect from myself much better. I gave Phoenix everything what I could at that moment. I expect from myself much much better. Unfortunately, we couldn’t beat Detroit. I know I can play in the playoffs, I have played before. I expect much better of myself in the future.”
For his sake, he’d has to do better or else the wave of good feelings that has washed over him in Philly to start might pull him under if he can’t get the Flyers deep into the playoffs. No matter what, watching how Bryzgalov does things in Philadelphia is going to be a side story worth paying attention to throughout the rest of his time there. His personality mixed with the aggressiveness of the Philly media and the sky high hopes of the fans has sky high possibilities for entertainment.
Corey Perry will spearhead the leadership group looking to guide Canada to its second straight gold medal at the World Hockey Championships.
On Thursday, the Canadian contingent announced that Perry would captain the squad at this year’s tournament, to be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Joining him in the leadership group will be Colorado’s Matt Duchene, and Buffalo’s Ryan O'Reilly.
“This is an energetic young team, and these three players bring a mixture of youth and experience in their leadership role on the ice and in the dressing room,” Canadian head coach Bill Peters said, per the Toronto Sun. “Their resumes speak for themselves — they know what it takes to compete at the highest level, and have all been part of pulling together Team Canada successes during these short-term events.”
Unlike Duchene and O’Reilly, Perry wasn’t a part of last year’s championship team, but does have extensive international experience. He was part of the Canadian teams that captured gold at the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver at the ’14 games in Sochi.
He’s also played in a pair of World Championships, but failed to medal both times.
In just a few short months, Trevor Daley has gone from not being a fit in Chicago to being an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The veteran defenseman played almost 30 minutes last night, by far the most of any Penguin. Despite the absence of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh was able to beat the Capitals in overtime and take a 3-1 series lead back to Washington.
“It’s funny how this game works,” Daley said, per the Penguins’ website. “You stick with it and good things happen. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m in a good place here. I’m enjoying it with a great group of guys. We just play. That’s been our motto since I got here, since (Mike Sullivan) got here – just play.”
Traded to Pittsburgh in December, with Rob Scuderi going to the Blackhawks, Daley’s strengths were immediately utilized by Sullivan. The Penguins’ new head coach came in emphasizing the importance of breakouts, and that suited Daley just fine.
“Over the years my game has been getting in the play, moving the puck,” Daley said after he was traded. “I’m not the biggest guy so I won’t push guys over. I get into areas quickly and try to be a good team guy.”
It was simply a good match. And for that, GM Jim Rutherford should be applauded. The Penguins are one game away from the Eastern Conference Final, and Daley is a big reason why.
Related: Penguins provided ‘fresh start’ for Daley
After not playing anywhere this year, longtime NHL blueliner Anton Volchenkov is back in action, having signed a deal with KHL club Admiral Vladivostok.
The deal, announced by Admiral on Thursday, puts Volchenkov back on a team for the first time since suiting up with Nashville during the ’14-15 campaign. He appeared in 46 games for the Preds, recording seven assists.
Prior to his time in Nashville, Volchenkov in over 600 games with the Senators and Devils. He’d established a reputation as a physical, hard-hitting d-man, but struggled with injury and mobility in the later stages of his time in New Jersey, and was ultimately bought out of his contract.
The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Thursday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Dallas at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Blues lead the series 2-1.
San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:
—Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty
—Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires
—Preds smash Sharks in Game 3 to get back in series
—Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1