Ilya Bryzgalov

Can the Bryz bounce back?


Ilya Bryzgalov flew far from under the radar during his first season with the Flyers. In fact, if he were a fighter pilot, he’d have been blown out of the sky by the end of October.

Signed to a nine-year, $51 million contract in June, Bryzgalov was supposed to bring stability to a position that had been anything but stable in Philadelphia since, well, a long time ago.

He started out decently enough, winning his first two games and allowing just one goal in the process.

Then it got interesting.

Now, it’s not our intention to use Flyers Day on PHT to look back on Bryzgalov’s tumultuous season. (Feel free to search his name for that. Enjoy the 1,073 posts.)

Our intention is to look forward to 2012-13. Specifically, can the 32-year-old Russian rediscover the form that earned him the big contract in the first place?

From 2007-08 to 2010-11 with the Coyotes, Bryzgalov was one of the NHL’s elite goalies. During his last season in Phoenix, he went 36-20-10 with a .921 save percentage and seven shutouts.

Yet despite those numbers, everyone knew the Flyers were taking a considerable risk by locking him up for nine years.

First off, Bryzgalov had never played in a high-pressure market like Philadelphia. Suffice to say his eccentricities didn’t get as much play in Phoenix.

Second, the Coyotes play a defense-first system under coach Dave Tippett, and defense-first systems often mean fewer quality shots against. As a result, goalies can have their save percentages inflated.

Philadelphia, of course, plays a very different style than Phoenix, and Chris Pronger’s absence for all but 13 games didn’t help shore things up on the back end.

For optimistic Flyers fans, Bryzgalov now knows exactly what he’s gotten himself into by signing in Philadelphia. If the media caught him off guard when he first arrived, it won’t this time. Nor will HBO cameras be stalking him.

Bryzgalov will also be familiar with the players in front of him, save for new additions Luke Schenn and, possibly, Shea Weber.

Speaking of Weber, it’s hard for a goalie to get worse with the addition of one of the best defenseman in the league.

Optimists will also take comfort in Bryzgalov’s post All-Star Game numbers (.929 SV%) compared to the ones prior to Jan. 29 (.895 SV%).

For pessimists, it’s hard to overlook what happened in the playoffs when Bryzgalov allowed 37 goals in 11 games. (To put that in perspective, Jonathan Quick allowed 29 goals in 20 games.)

Obviously we don’t know if Bryzgalov will bounce back. But what we do know is he’s used his mulligan. Another less-than-stellar season and that contract looks a lot longer.

Related: Offseason Report: Philadelphia Flyers

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.