When the Philadelphia Flyers and GM Paul Holmgren acquired and signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract, it ended a run of over 20 years that saw the Flyers going season after season without a definitive top goalie. Ever since Ron Hextall’s first run in Philadelphia, the Flyers have been buying time with all sorts of hopeful guys to take charge that never panned out fully.
After rising to become a top goalie in the NHL himself, Bryzgalov now finds himself in one of the most pressure-filled situations in the NHL in trying to not only be the starting goalie for the Flyers, but to lead them to the team’s first Stanley Cup since 1975. That kind of challenge has eaten up a number of goalies in the past (where have you gone Roman Chechmanek?) but Bryzgalov says he welcomes all of it.
Q: Are you prepared to deal with the pressure of being the guy that is look to as in some ways a goaltending savior for this organization?
“I want to be. I want to be and I want to be the guy who can carry this team. I don’t know what else to say. I want to help this team win the Stanley Cup because people in Philadelphia and the organization have waited long enough. I want to win the Stanley Cup also and I think we have similar ideas, similar goals. That’s why we have to work hard and reach this goal. Pressure…we have to deal with the pressure every way and every day in our lives, hockey, everywhere.”
Talk can be cheap and Bryzgalov is talking awfully big here, something Flyers fans won’t soon forget should things turn south for the Flyers under his watch. One lingering thought left in the minds of Flyers faithful might be Bryzgalov’s performance in the playoffs against Detroit this past season that saw Detroit sweep out the Coyotes in the first round. Bryzgalov didn’t spill his guts too much about why things went how they did.
“Definitely I can play better. Last year I think with Detroit, in a seven game series, I think we had good chances but in Game 7 we just ran out of gas. This year’s playoff series we came in already running out of gas because we had a lot of injuries in the two month race for the playoff spot. It was crazy in the West and we had lots of injuries and players were hurt. I thought I should have played better, but maybe I was tired too. That’s why I made some once in a while mistakes. It’s hockey and I expect from myself much better. I gave Phoenix everything what I could at that moment. I expect from myself much much better. Unfortunately, we couldn’t beat Detroit. I know I can play in the playoffs, I have played before. I expect much better of myself in the future.”
For his sake, he’d has to do better or else the wave of good feelings that has washed over him in Philly to start might pull him under if he can’t get the Flyers deep into the playoffs. No matter what, watching how Bryzgalov does things in Philadelphia is going to be a side story worth paying attention to throughout the rest of his time there. His personality mixed with the aggressiveness of the Philly media and the sky high hopes of the fans has sky high possibilities for entertainment.