There likely isn’t a player in the National Hockey League that has taken as much heat for his play on the ice as Ilya Bryzgalov has this season.
The Flyers invested their next nine years in net in Bryzgalov, and have spent much of the season wondering if that was a mistake. He’s struggled throughout his first year with the Flyers, as he makes the jump from small market Phoenix to one of the NHL’s biggest.
Bryz was the big prize of the offseason and was seen as the final piece of the puzzle for the Flyers, who have lacked a significant presence between the pipes for years.
Up until recently, the Flyers had seen next to no return on their investment. Known more for his ramblings on 24/7 involving the universe, many had wondered if Bryzgalov was even the best goaltender on his own team.
But if you’re looking for positive signs from the 31-year-old netminder, it looks like he’s finally starting to figure it out in Philly. His recent starts are an example of that.
His month of February wasn’t without its issues, but there were plenty of positives to pull from his nine starts. In five of those starts, Bryz gave up two or less goals. He was 4-3-1 for the month, with the shootout loss coming in a game against the Islanders in which he didn’t allow a goal for any of the 65 minutes of actual play.
On February 28th, in their 1-0 loss to San Jose, it was actually Bryzgalov that kept them in the game for much of the earlygoing. He stopped 22 of 23 shots for the night.
But if you’re looking for signs of Bryzgalov becoming the goaltender the Flyers are expecting him to be, look no further than his start against the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Bryz stoned the Caps on all 34 of their shots, in his sixth consecutive start, for his third shutout of the season.
At this point, Bryzgalov is still a wild card. But after a putrid start to the season, he’s showing signs of putting it together for the Flyers. If he is, it’s certainly coming at the perfect time, with the playoffs right around the corner. But he’ll need to string together some more of those two goals or less performances down the stretch for the Flyers and their fans to have any sort of confidence in him moving forward.