Ilya Bryzgalov doesn’t have to become Bernie Parent for the Philadelphia Flyers to end their Stanley Cup drought. He simply needs to play as consistently as number 1 did during either of the team’s back-to-back championship seasons (1973-74, 1974-75). If that happens, a deep playoff run will be possible.
Everyone initially welcomed this veteran to town last season. It was realistic to think that the former Phoenix Coyotes‘ goaltender was ready to add to his digital resume. But, his inconsistent performance during the first half of the 2011-12 season wasn’t what created doubt in many minds. Instead, it was his personality.
Philadelphia is a very sensitive town. Its sports fans, in particular, have a self-imposed chip tattooed on their collective shoulders. That happened because the region endured a quarter century championship drought that stretched from when the basketball team won in 1983, until the baseball team won in 2008. That misery didn’t break the will of the people, but it understandably jaded them.
Longevity allows a portion of the current Flyers’ fan base to be able to recall when the “Broad Street Bullies” stomped on the idea of tolerance. Those lovable guys didn’t just win two championships, they ripped Lord Stanley’s silver chalice from the privileged hands of the hockey world. Orange discrimination, both real and perceived, then took effect during those mid-1970s’ years.
The Flyers’ drought is part of the town’s culture, and yet Ed Snider’s team is rightfully worshiped because the recognized will to win has never died. That’s why they paid $51 million for Bryzgalov in the summer of 2011. That’s why the stadium has been and will continue to be filled, and why everyone wants their goaltender to just stop the puck and say no more.
General manager Paul Holmgren directly addresses all challenges. Head coach Peter Laviolette is a solid leader, and has a strong supporting staff. This team remains four forward lines deep, beginning with their sleek new captain Claude Giroux. With good health and the development of some younger defenders, their blue line contingent is also good enough to win.
In the end, it will all come down to Bryzgalov. If he plays like he did during his franchise record-breaking scoreless streak (249:43) last March, the Flyers can win regularly in the regular season and compete competently in any playoff series.
“Bryz” remains the piece that must fit if the Flyers and their fans expect to win the Cup this shortened season. It’s as simple as that.