Evgeni Malkin, Erik Gustafsson

Evgeni Malkin thought Ilya Bryzgalov would be the difference maker in Pittsburgh’s favor

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Seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins bow out in the first round to the Philadelphia Flyers is an especially bitter pill for Pens players and fans alike to swallow. The Penguins came into the playoffs on fire and all of a sudden they’re out in six games.

Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke exclusively with Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin to get his thoughts on what happened. Malkin had a curious thought about one area he thought the Penguins would have the advantage.

“Every team has a chance to win, not just Pittsburgh. You see the Rangers are down, too. It’s tough to win it every year. And we played against (the Flyers), and they played unbelievable against us all year. … Defensively, offensively, they did it all against us. I thought maybe with their goalie maybe it would be good for us, but it wasn’t.”

Thinking that the possibility of Ilya Bryzgalov being shaky would be a difference maker isn’t a radical thought which makes how small Marc-Andre Fleury came up in the series that much more of a kick in the pants for the Pens. After all, if Fleury even has an average series, perhaps these two teams are setting up for a Game 7 or the Pens find a way to win.

It’s going to be that kind of summer in Pittsburgh with lots of deep thoughts and “what if” questions thrown about.

Hartnell: “We’re going to live and die” by Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov
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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?

Giroux on Bryzgalov: “He’s going to be great tonight”

Bryz Giroux
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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.”

Flyers deny reports that Ilya Bryzgalov has a hip injury

Ilya Bryzgalov
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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.

Bryzgalov leaves practice early

Ilya Bryzgalov
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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?