In defense of Bryzgalov (sort of)

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As a statistic to judge the performance of goalies, save percentage has its issues.

Among the things one can say in retort to a poor save percentage:

—Yeah, but the defense isn’t very good. Odd-man rushes. Blown coverages. Not clearing rebounds. Every second shot seems to be a prime scoring opportunity.

—Yeah, but the team is shorthanded all the time. Power-play shots are typically better in quality, which is why a goalie’s save percentage is usually lower when shorthanded.

Both of the above have been said about the Philadelphia Flyers, and both should be taken into account when judging their embattled goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov.

Take this goal from Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Winnipeg:

If you’re picking out one player to blame on that shift, it’s Flyers defenseman Oliver Lauridsen, who allowed Mike Santorelli a free pass to the front of the net.

Granted, every team has breakdowns in defense. And if you went through all the goals Bryzgalov allowed this season, you’d find a bunch that he should’ve stopped.

Bryzgalov’s save percentage is .896, among the lowest in the NHL.

Whether the Flyers buy him out this summer could, of course, come down to more than just his play on the ice. The 32-year-old has a unique personality that’s great for the media, but may not be so good for the team. (Not being in the room, it’s hard to say if this is a real concern or just makes for a good story.)

I’m not about to go through all the goals Bryzgalov has allowed with the Flyers and determine how many he should’ve stopped. It would take a long time.

But if I’m general manager Paul Holmgren, I’d want to know exactly how a goalie that was lights out in Phoenix two years ago has been anything but in Philadelphia. Is it all on Bryzgalov? Because if it’s not, all you’re doing is setting up the next guy — maybe it’s Phoenix goalie Mike Smith! — to fail.

Related: Bryzgalov says he doesn’t care if the Flyers buy him out