Ilya Bryzgalov

Holmgren to Bryzgalov: This isn’t Comedy Central

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As we’ve previously reported, Ilya Bryzgalov recently opened up about the rough season he had and, in particular, the media scrutiny he endured.

“What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy,” Bryzgalov said – and that’s not the only headline-worthy nugget he’s given this season. If fact, he might have provided some of the most interesting quotes of the 2011-12 campaign.

We’ve gained insight into his personality and learned that, like Stephen Colbert, he has a fear of bears. That’s great and all, but his employers would probably wish he didn’t try to be as quotable as Colbert too.

“His job is to stop pucks and help us win games,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. “It’s not Comedy Central.”

Holmgren took a big risk when he traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while almost simultaneously signing Bryzgalov to a nine-year/$51 million contract. He has a lot riding on Bryzgalov and so far, things haven’t played out like he planned.

“Did he play as good as I expected this year,” Holmgren asked. “I’d probably say, no.”

That being said, Holmgren hasn’t given up on Bryzgalov.

“I absolutely think being here a year will help him,” Holmgren said.

All we know for certain is that one year is in the books and there’s eight more to go on that contract.

Bryzgalov: “What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy”

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 03: Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on after Patrik Elias #26 of the New Jersey Devils scored a goal against him in the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on May 3, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t want to answer reporters’ questions during the Flyers’ postseason media day on Thursday, but he was willing to give a very open and honest interview to Natalia Bragilevskaya of SovSport.

“What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy,” Bryzgalov said. “. . . I need to keep working. I understand the fans. They paid their money and want the show. But many forget that we are not robots, but living people. We have feelings, worries.”

Bryzgalov was very inconsistent during the regular season. He was a bit more reliable in the playoffs, but not in a good way. With the exception of Game 6 against Pittsburgh, Bryzgalov allowed at least three goals in every postseason contest.

“I got very tired this season, to be honest,” he said. “. . . Now I know what it’s like to be a goaltender in Philadelphia. Maybe from the outside it looks like there’s nothing to it. You only realize it on your own.”

It sounds like the media scrunity he experienced in Philadelphia might have come as a revelation, especially considering he jumped straight from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Flyers.

“People are so concentrated on the negative that they only see the bad in me,” Bryzgalov said. “But I think you need to be kinder to each other.”

Still, Bryzgalov does feel that he’s gained “invaluable experience” this season and he’s not prepared to give up despite the difficulties.

“I have eight more years to work under my contract with Philadelphia,” Bryzgalov said. “If I am criticized, then I will endure it. You can’t tie up people’s tongues. It is their right to let the emotions go.”

Being criticized is just something that’s going to happen if you’re playing for a big city in a key role. That’s not unique to hockey and certainly not unique to Bryzgalov. He wasn’t all bad this season, not even close, but the Flyers need more from him going forward.

Flyers GM Holmgren on Bryzgalov: “Ilya will be better next year”

Ilya Bryzgalov
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Flyers GM Paul Holmgren met with the media today and, as expected, fielded a number of questions about Ilya Bryzgalov. After Philly’s disappointing five game loss to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference semifinals — a series in which Bryzgalov’s play came under fire — Holmgren was asked to reflect on Bryz’s year and look ahead to his future.

Which the GM did…with confidence.

“I absolutely think being here a year will help him,” Holmgren said. “He had a lot of things to adjust to and adapt to. From playing in Philadelphia, the scrutiny of the media in Philadelphia compared to where he came from [Phoenix], the scrutiny of the fans compared to where he came from, different style of play…

“I don’t think there’s any question Ilya will be better next year.”

Video:

In closing, some numbers to throw your way…

2011-12, Bryzgalov regular season: 33-16-7, .909 save percentage, 2.48 GAA
2010-11, Sergei Bobrovsky regular season: 28-13-8, .915 save percentage, 2.54 GAA

2011-12, Bryzgalov postseason: 5-6, .887 save percentage, 3.46 GAA
2010-11, Brian Boucher postseason: 4-4, .904 save percentage, 3.13 GAA

…In light of those, Bryzgalov better be better next year. The Flyers can’t afford him to be worse.

Bryzgalov finishes third…on a list of the worst playoff performances by a Flyers goalie

Ilya Bryzgalov
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On the bright side, he didn’t finish first or second. According to The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau, Roman Cechmanek and Robbie Moore earned those honors, respectively.

Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, Moore was one of the “first goalies in either college or professional hockey to come out of his net and handle the puck like a defenseman.”

Just like Ilya Bryzgalov did last night!

Anyway, here’s what Proteau had to say about Bryzgalov’s playoff performance:

Leave aside all the sideshow elements to Bryzgalov’s first year as a Flyer – the colorful quotes, the philosophical ruminations, the insightful and entertaining Twitter account – and just look at his numbers: an .887 SP, 3.46 GAA and a playoff-worst 37 goals allowed. It doesn’t matter that Bryzgalov’s teammates weren’t there to bail him out – for a $5.6 million salary cap hit (until 2020), his stats are simply unacceptable.

Hard to argue with that.

On the other hand, while I’ve never been sold on Bryzgalov, I’m not to the point where I’m ready to write him off. Clearly he wasn’t prepared to play in a market like Philadelphia. And on top of having to shoulder the massive expectation he would solve Philly’s longstanding goaltending nightmare, there were distractions like “24/7” and the Winter Classic.

Throw in a new system to learn and the injury to Chris Pronger, one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL, and any goalie would struggle.

The hope for Flyers fans is Bryzgalov uses this season as a learning experience and comes back in the fall focused on hockey, not all the other noise.

Related: Team Russia says “no” to Ilya Bryzgalov

Team Russia says “no” to Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov
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The playoffs turned out to be a pretty rough time for Ilya Bryzgalov. He wasn’t exactly stellar in goal and his gaffe in Game 5 was the ultimate highlight (low-light?) for how bad things were for Philly in the second round.

With the playoffs over that usually means getting a call from your home country to play in the World Championships. As Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov reports, however, that invitation won’t be coming any time soon for Bryzgalov.

Chesnokov reports according to Vladislav Tretiak, Team Russia will be sticking by Semyon Varlamov and Konstantin Barulin at Worlds. It’s not a totally cold cut-off for Bryzgalov as they’ll at least give Bryzgalov a phone call to show him respect for their decision.

While we’re sure Bryzgalov would love to try and help Russia win gold at Worlds, after playing a full regular season and two rounds of playoffs, Bryzgalov could sure use a vacation. Let’s just hope he can steer clear of the woods where bears might be lurking to take him out.