First, a disclaimer — according to various Flyers beat reporters, nobody actually recorded all of Ilya Bryzgalov’s latest “this guy might be a genius, but he also might be on peyote” dissertation. According to Sam Carchidi of Philly.com, Bryz was rambling along until the cameras went on and he declined to say anything further.
In light of that, kudos to Comcast’s John Gonzalez for piecing this together:
When asked what he would have done if he hadn’t become a professional hockey goalie, Bryzgalov didn’t hesitate.
“Astronaut,” he said quickly.
The media pack sort of blinked back at him. No one was sure whether he was kidding. He wasn’t.
“No, seriously,” he added.
At which point Bryzgalov began a long dissertation about the American space program versus the Soviet/Russian space program and which was superior. He noted that the first two animals in space were Russian dogs, which led to a strange exchange between Bryzgalov and a reporter about who had lost more monkeys in space — the Americans or the Soviets/Russians. Bryzgalov conceded that too many monkeys had lost their lives in that vocation.
“The problem with monkeys,” Bryzgalov quipped, “they push the wrong buttons.”
Well, you know what they say: Chimpin’ ain’t easy.
/bangs gong, makes wokka wokka sound
For anyone aware of Ilya Bryzgalov’s eccentric personality before HBO fixed its cameras on him,* the idea of him playing in a harsh media and fan environment for the Philadelphia Flyers was fascinating. (Or worrisome, if you were a Philly fan “in the know.”)
After all these months, Breezy’s tiger-protecting naivete is still sort of charming. When asked about the New Jersey Devils’ dominant 4-1 win – and the Flyers’ flaccid effort – Bryzgalov told Sam Carchidi how he’d like the story to be framed.
“Bryz says give Devils credit instead of criticizing Flyers.”
My guess is that will happen right around the time that the Philadelphia Eagles erect a Donovan McNabb statue.
* – Yes, he said weird and hilarious things well before 24/7 came along.
When the Philadelphia Flyers went up 1-0 early in Game 2 against the New Jersey Devils, it seemed like it was going to be one of those games again. Not necessarily a win, but at least one of those high-flying Flyers efforts that have made them stand out as a wide-open team in a playoffs brimming with defense-first (second and last) squads. Instead, they folded after that 1-0 lead, expecting Ilya Bryzgalov to do it all and thus suffered a predictable 4-1 loss.
Danny Briere has been a hero for most of the playoffs basically since his first postseason game with Philly, but he didn’t have a great Game 2. He seems like a pretty accurate judge of the team’s effort, then, as he told Sam Carchidi.
“[We had] no desperation,” Briere said. “It’s frustrating. Bryz is really the only one who showed up tonight.”
Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but it was a pretty pitiful team effort after the Flyers went up 1-0. The power play went without a goal for the first time in the playoffs (0-for-5) while Claude Giroux (zero points) was awfully quite and Briere (-3 rating) was brutal on defense.
Bryzgalov kept the team in the game even after New Jersey generated a 12-2 shot advantage in the second period, but eventually the floodgates opened in a four-goal (empty-netter included) third period.
For a team that seemingly generated most – if not all – of its five playoff wins despite Bryzgalov’s play, it’s strange that they lost despite one of his best performances in months. However their goalie performs on a nightly basis, Philly needs to turn things around against its division rivals or the Flyers will face another second round exit.
If you’re wondering about why Ilya Bryzgalov has been so quiet lately, that’s for a good reason. Ever since talking about his fear of bears and then being nearly eaten alive early in the first round by the Penguins, Bryzgalov has gone about his business very quietly and that’s by design.
As Randy Miller of the Courier Post Online notes, getting to talk to Bryzgalov is impossible now but his teammates have complete faith that he’ll get the job done against New Jersey in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We have a lot of confidence in Bryz,” Flyers center Claude Giroux said. “He’s a veteran and knows what he has to do out there. Defensively, we have to do a better job in front of him, and I think we will.”
Danny Briere also feels strong that Bryzgalov will do well with the Devils and that’s much in part to his stellar numbers against them this season. Bryzgalov is 3-0-0 with a 0.29 goals-against average and a .987 save percentage with two shutouts. With those kinds of numbers, it’s easy to feel confident. If he can continue that sort of play in the postseason, Bryzgalov can go ahead and not talk to as many people as he wants to.
It seems like Ilya Bryzgalov has been a big story consistently since the Philadelphia Flyers inked him to a nine-year/$51 million contract. The headlines linked to him haven’t always been positive and the jury is still out on whether Philadelphia was right to put so much faith in him.
Certainly, he has his detractors, but it doesn’t sound like Martin Brodeur is one of them.
“That’s a team that’s a big market team that will pay the money to win,” Brodeur said, referring to Philadelphia. “Regardless of how they did it, there was always that little missing piece that for everybody was goaltending because there was so much movement. I think they solidified themselves doing what they did with Bryzgalov. A lot of people have different opinions about him, but I think in the long run they’ll be fine with him.”
Bryzgalov had a 0.29 GAA and .987 save percentage in four games against the Devils in the regular season. That said, the playoffs are a different beast and Bryzgalov’s hot-and-cold nature overall this season makes him something of an X-factor going into the second round.