As “Bryz” goes, so go the Philadelphia Flyers. That line is hardly passe this season, considering the noticeable standout performance that Ilya Bryzgalov has given through the first five games of this shortened season.
What happened last season has hardly been erased. Everyone knows that the Flyers’ top crease man must play consistently this (half) year in order to prove that he can deal with the atmosphere that covers Philadelphia’s hockey scene.
What has been most noticeable to-date is that Bryzgalov seems fully focused. In particular, his positioning is square to the shooter, he hasn’t been venturing outside of his zone and he’s embraced his teammates.
Most players are generally more comfortable when they begin their second year with an organization. Byrzgalov’s on- and off-ice demeanor has been controlled this season, which belies his refreshed mental frame.
The lockout and the time that he spent in the Kontinental Hockey League may have helped this starting goalie to respond to what life was like without the National Hockey League. It’s not that the KHL was a bad experience, but more so that it represented a lessened reality. The ice is actually smoother here in North America and “Bryz” knows it.
Basically, he allowed the pressure of wearing the Flyers’ mask to get to him last season. But, that didn’t confirm his future fate. Instead, it just created questions as to whether he would rebound this season.
With whatever in-season roster adjustments general manager Paul Holmgren makes, or however head coach Peter Laviolette handles his team, this 10-year veteran retains the ability to dramatically affect this season. Early indications are that he might do so in a positive way.