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In defense of Bryzgalov (sort of)

Apr 10, 2013, 1:48 PM EDT

Ilya Bryzgalov Getty Images

As a statistic to judge the performance of goalies, save percentage has its issues.

Among the things one can say in retort to a poor save percentage:

—Yeah, but the defense isn’t very good. Odd-man rushes. Blown coverages. Not clearing rebounds. Every second shot seems to be a prime scoring opportunity.

—Yeah, but the team is shorthanded all the time. Power-play shots are typically better in quality, which is why a goalie’s save percentage is usually lower when shorthanded.

Both of the above have been said about the Philadelphia Flyers, and both should be taken into account when judging their embattled goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov.

Take this goal from Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Winnipeg:

If you’re picking out one player to blame on that shift, it’s Flyers defenseman Oliver Lauridsen, who allowed Mike Santorelli a free pass to the front of the net.

Granted, every team has breakdowns in defense. And if you went through all the goals Bryzgalov allowed this season, you’d find a bunch that he should’ve stopped.

Bryzgalov’s save percentage is .896, among the lowest in the NHL.

Whether the Flyers buy him out this summer could, of course, come down to more than just his play on the ice. The 32-year-old has a unique personality that’s great for the media, but may not be so good for the team. (Not being in the room, it’s hard to say if this is a real concern or just makes for a good story.)

I’m not about to go through all the goals Bryzgalov has allowed with the Flyers and determine how many he should’ve stopped. It would take a long time.

But if I’m general manager Paul Holmgren, I’d want to know exactly how a goalie that was lights out in Phoenix two years ago has been anything but in Philadelphia. Is it all on Bryzgalov? Because if it’s not, all you’re doing is setting up the next guy — maybe it’s Phoenix goalie Mike Smith! — to fail.

Related: Bryzgalov says he doesn’t care if the Flyers buy him out

  1. xflyersx - Apr 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    sieve

  2. jimw81 - Apr 10, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    i agree with this article 100% but if you are liking a story to a tmz like website, your credibility and this site takes a hit.

    • Jason Brough - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      The Bryz sleeping story was reported on the Flyers’ flagship radio station. I think we’ll go ahead and run with that, thanks.

      • ibieiniid - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT JASON. Let Mike Halford know we encourage this type of s***.

      • steelpenbucs87 - Apr 10, 2013 at 3:34 PM

        Why are people thumbs downing ibieniid – that’s hysterical.

        How funny would it be though if one of the PHT writers turned heel and just started trolling the other writers?

        I know journalistic integrity and general decency would stop that but it would be REALLY funny.

      • ibieiniid - Apr 10, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        i agree. I was referencing the exchange between Halford and this same jimw81 guy on the “Bryzgalov: I don’t care if the Flyers buy me out” story. i tried to get Halford to lay into him for saying he “stole” a story…. no avail.

      • ibieiniid - Apr 10, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        wait…. but I was trying to get him to troll the READERS, not other writers. either way, I’d enjoy it.

  3. rushledger - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    He won’t get bought out it would take at least two more seasons of problems or up and down play.

    • ibieiniid - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      I believe I read earlier today that buyouts are only for the next 2 offseasons. Is this right?

      • ibieiniid - Apr 10, 2013 at 4:20 PM

        ^^^ people that thumbs down but don’t give corrections.

  4. yotesfan61 - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    I can answer the question as to why ANY goalie plays lights out in Phoenix with two words.

    Sean Burke.

  5. mayortito - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, goose.

    i was a bryz defender up until that goal. but after seeing him duck out of the way of a knuckle puck i cannot imagine he has many supporters left in that locker room considering the number of players willing to sacrifice their bodies for the team.

    as the great coach Gordon Bombay once said, “this isn’t hockey, it’s a circus”…

  6. sjsharks66 - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Flyers defense is lazy. Bryz vs the entire opposing team, every night. If they buy him out he should talk to San Jose about a spot to back up nemo.

    I will take that any day of the week.

    • maalea - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Guess what. Just about every team in the league would take him at backup goalie prices. the problem is he was paid as a top 5 goalie and he has yet to steal even one game in his time with the Flyers. He rarely makes a game changing save.

  7. lostpuppysyndrome - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Hey now, we all know the reason he sucked in Winnipeg was because there weren’t any parks to go play in…

  8. steelpenbucs87 - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I agree that the lion’s share of the issues for Philadelphia goaltenders this year have been (and will continue to be) the defense in front of them.

    However, I don’t think this is a clear cut case of a goalie being hung out to dry or a goalie being a complete sieve. The entire defensive unit (from the forwards, to the defensemen, and yes the goalie) have been playing poorly this year.

    The problem is that one of those pieces is making $5mm+ per year for an extended period. If Bryz is making $3mm a year I don’t think he catches the same flak.

    So who is to blame? Some on the defense, some on the goalie, but also a decent amount on management who put a bad defense on the ice in front of a good goalie with a bad contract.

  9. sjsharks66 - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    That last part sums it up. Build a better defense structure around a great goalie so his bad contract does not look as bad.

    Also offensively the flyers need to score more so bryz does not have to keep a 1-1 game from going to 2-1 for the last 2 periods.

  10. digbysellers - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Not a Bryz defender or hater in particular but two things…#1 – While the Flyers defense has been pretty inconsistent this year, 2nd shot opportunities are also a goaltender’s responsibility as well. Bryz doesn’t control his rebounds whatsoever which is on him, not whoever’s on D at the time. #2 – Bryz was good in Phoenix because of Dave Tippett. It’s not exactly like PHO has their forwards and defensemen playing fire wagon hockey like the 80’s Oilers. They’re D first in PHO all the way and that made Bryz look much better than he’s turning out to be. Sooner or later it looks like the Flyers have a decision to make…

  11. pitpenguinsrulez - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Bryzgalov is not a top 5 goalie in this league. Hes average in my book. Phoenix has a much better defensive cast to support their goalie unlike Philly. Look at Mike Smith, hes done just fine since Bryz left. Bryz is not a money goaltender. The Pens vs. Flyers series last year showed how bad both teams defenses were. The Penguins addressed their issues but they Flyers didn’t address theirs.

    • xflyersx - Apr 10, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      You mean Kurt Huskins and Kurtis Foster weren’t the answer?!

  12. hockeydon10 - Apr 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Sean Burke is Phoenix goalie coach.

    Bryz plays great in Phoenix while being coached by Sean Burke.

    Mike Smith is a mediocre goalie.

    Mike Smith signs with Phoenix.

    Sean Burke coaches Mike Smith to great performance.

    Maybe Philly should have hired Sean Burke instead of signing Bryz?

    • jimw81 - Apr 10, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Jeff Resse is apart of the problem. It was his idea to bring in Mason because he thought he had something in him that columbus and everyone around didnt see and Holmgren bought into it.

  13. irishphilly87 - Apr 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Bryz stinks. This is a Flyers fan who watches every game and I watch him continously give up weak goals. Granted defense stinks too, but Hasek, Roy, Broduer wouldnt allow 3,4,5 goals a game consistantly. It seems like everytime the Flyers score Bryz gives up a goal within 5 minutes to tie it up or be further behind. I’m tired of his play on the ice, i’m tired of his personality off the ice. He doesn’t fit Philadelphia, he can’t handle it here and they absolutely have to amnesty him this summer. He makes too much money for what a mediocre goalie could do for you. The Flyers better make a run at Luongo in the summer. He definitely is going to get traded, and Mason is not the answer. Dont waste another 2 or 3 years on Mason when Luongo is out there and available. The price shouldnt be too steep.

    • metaligoat - Apr 10, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      are you seriously going to compare Bryzgalov to the likes of Hasek, Roy and Brodeur? that’s 3 of the top 10 or so goalies in the history of the entire freaking sport, including two of the top 5 (Roy and Brodeur) by any measure (and you could argue that they’re 1 and 2 in some order).

      secondly, the “defense stinks too” thing matters a LOT, and it mattered for the likes of Hasek, Roy and Brodeur. all 3 of those guys consistently played for better defensive teams (well, better teams overall) than what Bryzgalov has been a part of in Philly. i’m not saying that those guys didn’t steal games in their own right sometimes, but you’re paying awfully little attention to how many great teams those guys played for – teams that were far more balanced and far better defensively than Philly has been since Pronger’s post-concussion issues began.

  14. gbar22 - Apr 10, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Yotesfan you claim Sean Burke I would claim Dave Tippet. Wherever he goes and the way he coaches favors goalies. It happened in Dallas when he didnt have Sean Burke and he’s done in Phoenix. Now that said the goalie still has to have quite a bit of talent for it to work but his system provides plenty of support.

    • 19to77 - Apr 10, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      Because it has to be one or the other, obviously. =/

  15. disp350 - Apr 10, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    I am not a big numbers fan and not that interested in save percentage or GAA. You need to look at this guy fundamentally. First, he is among the worst goalies you will ever see on breakaways/shootouts/penalty shots. He averages stopping about 1 of every 10 of these. Second, he is flawed in his adaption of the “butterfly” goalie style (of which I hate that style – Long Live Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall – Stand Up Goalies all the way!!). He goes down into it so often that most players just know to blast it over his shoulders. I’d like to see a percentage of high shots that have been stopped. Did you see JVR’s goal against him last week when they were in Toronto? He played on his team for a year and JVR knew all he had to do was flip the puck high over his shoulder and right into the net. I personally like the guy, but he is not the answer to the Flyers ongoing goaltending problems and they would bode well to just buy him out and move on.

  16. Jonny 5 - Apr 10, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    As a fan, I just want the players back we had and loved. Bobrovski, Carter, Richards, Giroux, Read, JVR, we could have, should have them all still. Just imagine….

    • ibieiniid - Apr 10, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      Flyers didn’t even have Read when all those other guys were there….

      still, quit living in the past. one good offseason, one good draft, we have a team again. the offense hasn’t died, there’s plenty of bright spots. we just need some more durable guys and some depth at D.

      you can’t tell me you don’t enjoy watching Voracek, Simmonds, Talbot, Timonen….. these guys have been excellent.

  17. hockeyflow33 - Apr 10, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    Philly is out of their mind if they think goaltending is their issue.

  18. canucks30 - Apr 10, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Roberto Luongo is the ANSWER to the Flyers goaltending conundrum

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