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Will Ilya Bryzgalov be the difference maker the Flyers are looking for?

Aug 28, 2011, 10:23 PM EDT

Ilya Bryzgalov Getty Images

Let’s face it, Ilya Bryzgalov is the best goalie the Philadelphia Flyers have brought in to play in decades. Not since Ron Hextall in the early 90s have the Flyers had a big time number one goalie who could carry a team. After struggling in the playoffs last year with Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and Michael Leighton, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren decided it was time to correct a long-standing problem in Philadelphia at goalie.

Enter Ilya Bryzgalov to the situation, a guy who established himself as the top guy in Phoenix the last four seasons.  The kind of success he brought the Coyotes and the kind of statistics he piled up made him into one of the league’s best goalies. With that pedigree, Bryzgalov arrives in Philadelphia as a savior-like figure.

Should he be though? Jonathan Willis of Houses Of The Hockey breaks down his numbers and whether or not he’s better (or, gulp, worse) than what Bobrovsky and Boucher brought to the ice last year.

Since the NHL lockout, Bryzgalov’s 0.916 SV% ranks him eighth (min. 100 games), tied with figures like Ryan Miller and a hair back of Niklas Backstrom and Henrik Lundqvist.  Over just the last three seasons, that same 0.916 SV% places him 10th.  Last season, Bryzgalov ranked eighth among starters.  There’s a good deal of consistency in those numbers, which place Bryzgalov as a top-10 NHL goaltender.

The problem is that the Flyers, by and large, got pretty good goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher last season.  A lack of consistency game-in and game-out cost Bobrovsky his starting job immediately when he faltered early in the playoffs, but his overall save percentage of 0.915 is in the same range as Bryzgalov’s career numbers, as was Boucher’s 0.916 SV%.  Those players faltered in the post-season, but then again so did Bryzgalov – he went 0-4 with a miserable 0.879 SV%.  I’m not inclined to harshly criticize Bryzgalov for those numbers (four games is too short a period to be basing judgement on) but neither am I inclined to dismiss the regular season results of Bobrovsky and Boucher because of their playoff struggles.

None of this is to say that Bryzgalov isn’t a much better goalie than Boucher, and probably a better one than Bobrovsky for that matter.  His career numbers are far superior to the former, and the latter is a bit of a question mark given that he’s played just a single NHL season.  Over the long haul, Bryzgalov is a good bet to outperform that duo.

Willis is a smart guy and great with breaking down the numbers but if there’s any shot that Bryzgalov turns out worse than how the Flyers’ duo performed last year, especially late in the season, Flyers fans are going to start gnawing off their arms come April. With Bryzgalov signing a nine-year, $51 million deal this summer the Flyers are hoping that Bryzgalov can sustain his great play for a long time.

The one problem to those big plans could be Bryzgalov’s age. At 31 years-old, asking him to stand tall for a long time in Philly could be asking a lot. After all, not all goalies play until they’re 40. Martin Brodeur will be 39 this season and has a Hall Of Fame résumé to back him up. Patrick Roy played until he was 37 and had an equally gaudy career. Dominik Hasek left the NHL at age 43 and continues to play professionally in Europe now at age 46. In other words, Bryzgalov’s long future isn’t guaranteed.

The one thing that will keep the hounds at bay for Bryzgalov in Philly will be to win the Stanley Cup. If he can bring Philly their first Cup since the mid-70s, something he’s eager to do, the rest of  his contract will end up looking like a “thank you” bonus. One thing is for sure, the expectations are high for Bryzgalov and it’s up to him and the rest of the team to help him live up to sky-high expectations.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 28, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    It all depends on how he handles the immense pressure those in Philly and around the league are putting on him. He’s proved he can be a top goaltender, even on a mediocre team, so he’s definitely got the ability to be everything the Flyers are looking for in a goalie. Wait and see I guess

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 28, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    As for the playoff numbers, you have to remember he was facing Detroit as a member of the Coyotes. That’s as big of a first round mismatch as there was last year. He should be just fine playing for a top seeded team instead of an underdog in the postseason

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 29, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    @1943mrmojorisin1971, both valid points. I can’t really see Bryz coming here and stinking up the joint. He seems to be a guy who understands that he is coming into a hostile environment. Us Philly fans will be quick to embrace him if he performs well. I think he we do his part. I think the question is will the rest of the team, especially the new forwards, will they do their job? We shall see. I’m pumped for hockey again. I can only watch so much re-runned playoff hockey on the NHLN.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 29, 2011 at 1:09 AM

      Talbot is solid, JVR looks like he’s developing into a real scoring threat, Schenn can flat-out play, and Jagr’s a wildcard. Briere and Giroux will definitely have to step up. Should be an interesting season in Philly

      • hanktheking - Aug 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM

        Schenn has showed he can play? Where? The WHL? I can’t remember him ever showing he can play at the highest level?

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 29, 2011 at 6:08 PM

        Yea I’m not sold on Schenn. He has mad potential but he still is an unproven commodity.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 29, 2011 at 7:03 PM

        He was a top player in the CHL and showcased his talents against the best young international players in the WJC. I’m not saying he alone can fill in for either of the 2 guys Philly lost (yet) but if he and the others I named play to their potential Flyers fans won’t miss Carter and Richards too much

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 29, 2011 at 7:37 PM

        I agree. I’m one of the fans who give the departure of both Carter and Richards two thumbs up. And I am excited to see what Schenn can do. But he and all the other new forwards are a part of the Flyers’ future success. Not just Bryz.

  4. bcjim - Aug 29, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    Answer: No

    • hanktheking - Aug 29, 2011 at 5:54 PM

      Not even close.

  5. deadpooldx - Aug 29, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    he may be a good goalie, but with the amount the Flyers gave up to be able to sign him I’m not sure they’ll be as good as last years team. They lost a lot with Richards, Carter, Carcillo and Leino leaving.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 29, 2011 at 12:39 PM

      You can scratch Carcillo of you list.

    • BSpeedman - Aug 30, 2011 at 11:18 AM

      Carcillo was a nothing, if not a negative, to this team last year. He took way too many stupid and untimely penalties during his time here that letting him go was a bonus. Leino was more a product of the system. He had great chemistry with Briere and Hartnell, but with the money that he received from Buffalo, it just wasn’t worth it to keep him around. Though he was a solid player and had a great playoff run two years ago and a good season last year, but I don’t think he will play to the contract he received.

      As for Richards and Carter (personally, my favorite player) the Flyers lost a lot of scoring and depth. But the return on those two players was pretty good. Schenn is touted by many as a star in the making. He is 6 years younger than Carter and Richards and will likely step into the lineup and be a solid contributor much the same as Giroux did. The Flyers also got bigger on the wings which is something that is important as well. Though they may not have the same numbers as Carter and Richards combined they likely will replace one of the two. That coupled with the addition of a goalie who is supposed to be a solid presence in net should equal out the loss of Carter and Richards.

      The biggest questions for this coming season is (1) if Chris Pronger will be healthy and (2) if so, will he be able to play to the level he is expected. If he is playing like he did two seasons ago I think this will be a team that competes for the Atlantic Division title and the Stanley Cup.

    • dbick - Aug 30, 2011 at 4:01 PM

      Leino was overrated. He gets romanticized around philly because he had a ridiculous playoff’s when we went to the cup. He disappears for stretches at a time, literally don’t even know he’s on the ice. Jagr will, at worst, match his production.

  6. hystoracle - Aug 29, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    If he’s not the Flyers are going in to be in a world of Hurt. The guys going to be around for the next 9 years at a fairly high #.

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