Sam Donnellon of Philly.com spoke with former Flyer (and NHL on NBC analyst) Jeremy Roenick about the plight of Philadelphia netminder Ilya Bryzgalov.
Roenick, as you may have seen on HBO 24/7, sought out Bryzgalov at the Winter Classic and offered words of encouragement, something the Russian netminder probably appreciated. Bryzgalov has struggled throughout his first season in Philly (3.07 GAA, .891 save percentage) and was benched for the marquee event in favor of backup Sergei Bobrovsky.
Making matters worse, Bobrovsky will make his second consecutive start tonight against the Islanders.
So, what does JR make of the Bryzgalov situation?
“It’s a very tough position,” Roenick said. “And when you get a contract like he got in a city like Philadelphia, where the expectations are immense, it’s very easy to feel the pressure.”
Some say Bryzgalov’s antics only increase that pressure. Deemed quirky at the best of times and flaky at the worst, Bryzgalov’s bizarre quotes and unique outlook on the universe are becoming less endearing (to Flyers fans especially) with every poor performance.
Notorious oddballs like Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek — both former Roenick teammates — were given a green light for their goofiness because they were arguably the finest netminders in the game.
Bryzgalov currently ranks 59th in goals-against and 66th in save percentage.
“I definitely think that Bryz is an odd bird,” Roenick said. “Lots of goaltenders I’ve played with are odd birds. It doesn’t make him different.
“I don’t know if Bryz goes into his own little world and just hangs out there, but sometimes goaltenders need to just do that. Belfour would do that on game days. He’d go into his own little world, a world in which he just got angry. So that competitive edge would just come out in him.
“When Dominik first came over from the Czech Republic, he would just drop the stick in practice and tell you to shoot harder and faster. He’d tell you to shoot at his head so he could practice making saves with his head.
“He was just nuts.”
Another difference between Bryzgalov and Belfour/Hasek is Bryz routinely owns up to his shortcomings, even joking about them. He said he was “lost in the woods” after a 9-8 loss to Winnipeg earlier this season and joked the Flyers had “a chance to win” the Winter Classic because Bobrovsky was playing, not him.
Not that Roenick sees a problem with such honesty.
“Actually my hat’s off to him for calling himself out,” said Roenick. “I respect him for calling himself out. For telling the media that he’s not been good. He’s not hiding behind anything.
“He might be a little too honest. But hopefully people can appreciate that.”