General manager Paul Holmgren spoke with Ilya Bryzgalov at the end of last season. He advised him that being a goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers is serious business and is not to be taken lightly. On that point, “Homer” was exactly right.
“Bryz” played decently in the Kontinental Hockey League during the lockout. At one point during his European sojourn he mentioned that a number of players in the KHL might not return to the National Hockey League after the collective bargaining war was over. People who don’t take themselves too seriously didn’t overreact to that tongue-in-cheek statement, or most of the others that he’s made in the past.
Bryzgalov produced mixed results last season. At times he was all over the crease. At others (in March) he was establishing a franchise record scoreless streak.
Hardcore fans are willing to accept any hockey player’s personality points as long as he gives his best effort every game. It was apparent last season that this veteran hockey man had difficulty adjusting to the “atmosphere” that has enveloped certain sections of Philadelphia.
Through the years a variety of personality types within the area have intentionally assumed an aggressive stance toward all things sports. The gathered mob formerly used a championship dearth as its false cover until the baseball team won in 2008. After that happened they paused, regrouped and began to feed again.
Here’s the bottom “goal” line: Anyone who actually wants this team to succeed also respects the organization and its players. The Flyers rank among the best franchises in sports because of their proven perennial attempts to win a championship.
Along with good health and the right spring matchups, Peter Laviolette’s squad has the potential to make a playoff push this season.
As long as Bryzgalov doesn’t allow outside factors to push him off his game, he has the ability to take the city on a positive ride through June.