Of all the goalies to see ice time in the 2012 NHL Playoffs, Ilya Bryzgalov sits 19th in goals-against-average at 3.49 – Jimmy Howard is in 18th, more than a smidge ahead at 2.64. He also sits 19th in save percentage (.885). His salary this season is also $10,000,000.
Well, now it’s time for Ilya Bryzgalov to earn that money (and just as importantly, validate the committment the Flyers made to him), and steal them a goddamn hockey game when it counts.
This summer, the Flyers decided they were sick of singing the same old tune – “We have a very good team, a Stanley Cup contender in fact, but we have bad goaltending” – so this off-season they committed 51 million over nine years to rectify the situation once and for all. I once wrote about the Flyers, and how this was exactly what they needed to do during the 2010-11 season.
They now find themselves, once again, singing that same miserable tune despite trying to belt out a very different song. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, Bryz’s numbers have flat-out sucked during the playoffs. The series versus the Penguins was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before from an offensive standpoint, but “Both goalies were awful” doesn’t change the fact that he was one of them. Nor does it change the fact that he’s given up 13 goals in four games against the Devils, good for a 3.25 GAA.
Well tonight the Flyers head into Game 5 down 3-1 to the lower-seeded Devils. They’re without playoff-leading scorer Claude Giroux, who’s suspended for his head shot on Danius Zubrus. They’re playing at home. Simply put, somebody has to rise up for the Flyers and win this hockey game, and it simply has to be Bryzgalov’s time.
Danny Briere has done everything expected of him and more, they’re without their captain Chris Pronger, and they’re a team full of talented rookies. As a guy in that dressing room, you have to wonder where the win is going to come from. Maybe Jaromir Jagr can hop in a time machine quick?
If you’re the Phoenix Coyotes, this happens every night. Who in here is going to lead us past the Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the rest of the Pacific Division to get into playoffs? For them to win the answer has to be Mike Smith, and it has been. He’s been a wall, so whenever they can squeak a couple pucks in, they’ve had a chance to win. Philly needs that tonight.
The Flyers aren’t scoring at near the rate they have in the past, and find themselves minus one superstar tonight. To me, the onus falls on Ilya Bryzgalov to give them a shot. Tonight’s the night he needs to rise up, earn those big bucks, and carry his team to a win.