The Philadelphia Flyers defense deserves a lot of credit for containing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (Evgeni Malkin was the only player to score a point, let alone a goal), but Game 6 might also be a big confidence-booster for Ilya Bryzgalov. Considering the wild success of trapping strategies in just about every series except for the Pitt-Philly one, it’s reasonable to assume that the Flyers will need more from him as the playoffs go along.
Scott Hartnell echoed such thoughts to Mark Masters.
“We’re going to live and die by Bryz,” Hartnell said. “If he plays anything like he did tonight, we’re going to keep moving on.”
Of course, that’s a pretty big if, as it seems like he was simply not as bad as Marc-Andre Fleury for most of the first round series.
Then again, you could argue that there might not be an offensive force quite like Pittsburgh left once the semifinals begin. So with all that in mind, tell us: will the Flyers live by the Bryz or die by the Bryz?
Say this about Claude Giroux — he knows how to pump tires.
The Flyers leading scorer and alternate captain once again backed beleaguered netminder Ilya Bryzgalov on Friday, saying he expected big things in a crucial Game 5 tilt against the Penguins.
“He’s going to be great tonight,” Giroux told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I have a feeling. He’s focused.”
Finding focus hasn’t been easy for Bryzgalov lately. He was bombarded with questions following Wednesday’s 10-3 shellacking in which he allowed five goals on 18 shots, then raised eyebrows yesterday when he left practice after 10 minutes.
Shortly thereafter, more distraction — Philadelphia’s NBC 10 TV analyst Howard Eskin tweeted Bryzgalov had a hip injury, a claim the Flyers quickly refuted.
Perhaps this is why Giroux felt the need to show confidence in Bryz…again. Following the Game 4 loss, Philly’s leading scorer jumped to his goalie’s defense, saying there was no wavering confidence in his ability to stop pucks.
“I’m not worried about Bryz,” Giroux said. “He knows what he’s got to do. He’s a lead goaltender, and we’ve got to do a better job in front of him. He’ll be our best player in Game 5.”
Here’s what we know for sure: Ilya Bryzgalov left Philadelphia Flyers practice early today. The confusion begins when you ask “Why?” Howard Eskin recently reported that Bryzgalov is dealing with a hip injury, but Frank Seravalli passes along word from Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren that there’s “no truth” to those rumors.
If you’ve followed Flyers injury reports in general and during this season in particular, it’s tough to believe anything you read. Holmgren was initially optimistic about Chris Pronger’s injury situation – which is amusing in hindsight since Pronger might not play another shift of NHL hockey. Then again, Holmgren was also positive about Bryzgalov returning from an injury late in the regular season … and he actually did.
Another thing that compounds the confusion is that for all of Peter Laviolette’s positivity, he might go with Sergei Bobrovsky even if injuries aren’t the main determining factor.
It’s all a bit bewildering, but for now we’ll take the Flyers word for it. Bryzgalov might not have a hip issue, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t injured. Some Philly fans would say he’s playing like an injured netminder, anyway.
In other news from Eskin, James van Riemsdyk has been cleared to play while Nicklas Grossmann isn’t likely to be available for Game 4. Just like with Breezy, it sounds like we’ll just need to wait and see what happens on Friday.
Not sure what to make of this yet, but Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov left practice after 10 minutes and, you guessed it, out onto the ice came Michael Leighton.
Leighton, 30, spent the entire season in the AHL with Adirondack, where he appeared in 56 games (.918 SV%). His last NHL game was Dec. 30, 2010.
It’s likely Bryzgalov is battling some form of injury (though given what happened last night, we suppose there’s an outside chance he got pulled from practice for giving up too many goals.)
More to come.
Related: Are Philly’s playoff goaltending problems back? Did they ever really leave?
Even though the Philadelphia Flyers have a 3-1 series lead, I feel the need to point out that the Flyers remade their team over the summer and spent $51 million on Ilya Bryzgalov, in no small part because they were upset with Sergei Bobrovsky’s showing in their 2011 playoff run. Which wasn’t entirely unwarranted, sure Bobrovsky was a rookie and they kept him on a very short leash, but in their defense, he did post a 3.23 GAA and .880 save percentage in six playoff contests.
So how has Bryzgalov done after four postseason games? Well, you already know its bad, but if you need to put numbers to it, Bryzgalov has a 4.96 GAA and .840 save percentage.
To be fair, a goaltender’s statistics are usually not just an indication of how he’s doing, but also how his team has been. Playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins also isn’t going to leave any netminder looking pretty. Still, with numbers like that, the Philadelphia Flyers have to be getting worried.
“I’m not worried about Bryz,” Flyers center Claude Giroux said. “He knows what he’s got to do. He’s a lead goaltender, and we’ve got to do a better job in front of him. He’ll be our best player in Game 5.”
Their best player? After Wednesday’s performance? Well, this has been a wild series, so what’s one more twist?