Ilya Bryzgalov was one of the most controversial figures in hockey last season, driving Philadelphia Flyers fans crazy with his inconsistent play and ridiculous comments. However, when all was said and done, the Flyers had a legitimate goaltender for the first time since Ron Hextall.
Ilya Bryzgalov had incredible trouble adjusting to the Philadelphia Flyers. The media in Philadelphia is far more relentless than that of Phoenix. Bryzgalov was thrust into the limelight with HBO’s 24/7 series, a showcase Ilya Bryzgalov was clearly uncomfortable with. Ilya Bryzgalov signed a big contract and struggled to deal with high expectations. Ultimately, telling Philadelphia Flyers fans that they take hockey too seriously probably wasn’t the smartest move. The beginning of the 2011-12 season was a disaster for Ilya Bryzgalov, as his play on the ice was obviously impacted by his inability to adjust.
However, Bryzgalov settled in nicely after being benched in the Winter Classic. Ilya Bryzgalov strung together an incredible streak of shutout hockey, asserted himself as the top Flyers goaltender, and cruised into the playoffs with momentum and confidence.
Despite his early season struggles, Ilya Bryzgalov was able to post numbers comparable to his career figures. While his saves percentage dropped slightly in the open-ice system of the Philadelphia Flyers, his goals against average and wins figures remained consistent. In fact, the only noticeable drop in Ilya Bryzgalov’s numbers was in minutes. Now that Bryzgalov is the true number one goaltender, look for more consistency with more playing time.
Additionally, against the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins and eventual Stanley Cup finalist New Jersey Devils in the postseason, Ilya Bryzgalov played impressively. He was the only consistent player in the series with the New Jersey Devils series, and despite mediocre numbers, Ilya Bryzgalov was able to outlast the Pittsburgh Penguins offense. His solid postseason play should be enough to give him confidence and momentum entering the 2012-13 season.
Settled in and playing some of the best hockey of his career, Ilya Bryzgalov is set for a solid season in 2012-13. The Philadelphia Flyers still have to fill a Chris Pronger-sized hole in their blue line, but Ilya Bryzgalov is not the bust we all thought he was in the first half of last season. The stupid comments will stop, the erratic play will end, and the Philadelphia Flyers will finally have a comfortable, talented goaltender between the pipes.