His first season with the Philadelphia Flyers may have been exactly what most of us were expecting for Ilya Bryzgalov. There were ups, there were downs, there were cheers, there were jeers, and there were more than a few colorful quotes. So what should we expect in Year Two for Bryz in Philly?
Bryzgalov’s early struggles down on Broad Street really should come as no surprise. In trying to adjust from the small market Phoenix Coyotes with no pressure to the big market in Philly where pressure is at a premium is enough to rattle anyone initially.
Bryz surrendered at least four goals three times in his first month as a Flyer and gave up at least five in eight starts on the year, including the postseason. He finished with a save percentage of just .909 and a 2.48 goals-against average for the season.
In the spring, though, Bryzgalov caught fire, at the beginning of March in particular. There was not a better man between the pipes than Bryz was in March as he was named the NHL’s First Star of the Month. He surrendered just two or less goals in 11 of his 13 starts and pitched four of his six shutouts in the month of March.
Unfortunately for Bryzgalov, his playoff performance was more similar to what we saw at the beginning of the year. He struggled against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was bailed out thanks to the awful performance from Marc-Andre Fleury. A combination of his struggles between the pipe and a quiet offense ultimately saw the Flyers eliminated from the postseason.
Heading into year two, Bryzgalov has had a year to settle in, which should prove to be important. But with a shaky blue line in front of him, can we really expect a big year from the Russian netminder? That’s going to be an interesting question to Bryz and the Flyers to answer in 2012-13.
Having played in Phoenix, and even last year’s defense, Bryzgalov has always had a solid group of defenders in front of him. He may not have that this year, at least to begin the season. He’s really going to have to show something in net this year for the Flyers if he wants to silence his critics in the upcoming season, especially without Sergei Bobrovsky to fall back on.