Take the Philadelphia media, add the spectacle of the Winter Classic, and mix in a potential goaltending controversy. Talk about a recipe for some high-profile speculation.
This time, it’s the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi that is wondering aloud about the Flyers’ growing dilemma between the pipes. He points out that Sergei Bobrovsky has been a dominant netminder over his last eight appearances—and he’s right. Over the same small sample size, the high-paid, high-profile Ilya Bryzgalov has been, shall we say, “less dominant.”
So what is Peter Laviolette to do with the Winter Classic on the horizon? Should he ride the hot hand going into an important divisional game against the New York Rangers? Or should he put in the well compensated goaltender who will be Philadelphia for the better part of the next decade? Funny how a nine-year contract can make decisions a little more complicated.
Carchidi goes on to say that benching the struggling Bryzgalov would “risk diluting Bryzgalov’s already-low confidence level.” Is that reason enough to put faith in Bryzgalov when the sport’s brightest regular season spotlight is shining on the team on Monday?
No one has ever said that playing between the pipes in Philadelphia is an easy job. Former Flyers’ (and Rangers’) netminder John Vanbiesbrouck has been through the grinder in some of the biggest hockey markets and explains how difficult the mental side of the game can be for a goaltender.
“Nobody knows what’s going on in another person’s insides.” Vanbiesbrouck told CSNPhilly.com. “I didn’t even know [Bryzgalov] was struggling until you just asked me about this. But the pressure he is putting on himself to not only perform but to analyze his performance, he is going to be his own worst enemy for a while. And he’s got to go through it until he realizes he is not here to impress everybody during practice, in the press and in management, trying to be Superman.”
Or Master of the Universe in Bryzgalov’s case.
Laviolette had an opportunity to squash any speculation after the Flyers’ 4-2 victory on Thursday night. Instead, he chose to sidestep the question and we’ll have a few days of speculation while the Flyers try to figure out who will get the nod in net.
In the spirit of playing armchair GM/coach, who do you think should get the start in the Winter Classic? Has the surging Bobrovsky earned the start or is it more important to the Flyers’ long-term success this season to put Bryzgalov in net? The comment section awaits…