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Struggling Bryzgalov still Flyers' No. 1 goalie

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If there were any questions as to who the Flyers’ No. 1 goalie is, the team’s coaches seemed to put them to rest Monday at Skate Zone.

While both goalie coach Jeff Reese and head coach Peter Laviolette refused to outright call Ilya Bryzgalov their No. 1, they made it clear "the Bryzard of Oz" is still their top guy.

Yes, Sergei Bobrovsky might be the better goaltender right now, with far better stats. Nonetheless, Bryzgalov is going to get the majority of starts the rest of the way to prep for the playoffs.

“I hate numbers, you know that,” Laviolette said when asked who his No. 1 was. “That’s a silly question. I don’t use numbers. Now Bryz has gotten the majority of the starts. I don’t know if that answers your question or not.

“Bryz was brought here to be a horse and has received the majority of games. I don’t see that changing.”

The Flyers have 39 games left.

Bryzgalov, who averaged 64 starts in net during his four years in Phoenix, has played in 30 games.

Anyone familiar with Bryz will tell you that he needs consecutive starts over a sustained period to find his rhythm.

Theoretically, he could still get 64 starts, but that won’t happen. The Flyers have six pairs of back-to-back games, so we’re really only talking about 33 games left in which Bryz can work. That adds up to 63 starts.

Reese thinks even that number is too high.

“I’d like to keep him under 60 so he is fresh and hungry and ready for the long grind of the playoffs,” Reese said.

The doubt about who is the real No. 1 has come about lately because of how well Bobrovsky has played against lesser opponents, while Bryzgalov continues to struggle every game with deflected shots.

On paper, Bobrovsky’s numbers are sterling: 2.42 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.

Bryzgalov? He’s having the worst season of his nine-year NHL career with a 3.07 GAA and .891 save percentage. You won’t win a Stanley Cup with those numbers. You won’t even win a playoff round.

Everyone knows Bryz is better than what he’s shown, but his propensity this season to continually get burned by shot deflections is unnerving.

That hasn’t been the case with Bobrovsky, nor was it ever the case with Bryzgalov in Phoenix.

How many times have we heard Bryz say that it’s “his fate” this year to get beat by deflections?

It’s almost expected every game now, which does nothing for his confidence.

“It’s most important for me right now to bring my head, put everything in my head in the right spot, the right direction,” Bryzgalov said. “Lots of things the past three months and it was a little messy. I need to put things in the right spot and practice and work.”

Laviolette has used Bobrovsky as the guy with the hot hand and rewarded him for wins this season.

It’s sometimes difficult to figure out who gets the next start because on the basis of a “hot hand,” Bobrovsky should have started against Nashville. And didn’t.

The Flyers lost 4-2 with Bryzgalov in net. There were two more deflected goals, too.

People point to the fact that Bob has looked good against bad clubs, but to say that also discounts Ottawa, Dallas, Pittsburgh and even Montreal as teams that have given the Flyers fits in the past on the road.

The fact is, as Kimmo Timonen bluntly put it, Bobrovsky exudes confidence in net, his on-ice appearance supports that, and it rubs off on the team. That’s important to a hockey club.

“He plays with confidence, you can tell when he gets in net,” Timonen said of Bobrovsky last week.

“He’s calm. Every save he makes, you see the confidence. He has control, he knows where the puck is, even if he doesn’t make the first save. He knows where the rebound is.”

“He helps the defense, like he made a couple of breakup passes under pressure. That obviously helps. His puck-handling skills are way better. I don’t know what he did over the summer. When a goalie plays with confidence, you can tell as a player.”

You’re not hearing players say that about Bryzgalov, are you? And they won’t because Bryz isn’t comfortable in net and has no positive rhythm at the moment.

You could say the Flyers seem to play differently and with more confidence in front of Bobrovsky. At the same time, the Flyers’ defense has been porous of late, and simply is not as strong as when Chris Pronger was around.

Defensive breakdowns are a trigger point in front of both goalies right now.

The weight of Bryzgalov’s $51 million contract seems to have muddled things, yet the fact remains: Bryzgalov needs a string of games to get into a groove.

He admitted because he had averaged 64 starts in the past, he has no idea how many he needs to play here.

“It’s really difficult to explain this right now,” he said. “I’m on a new team, new system, different players.”

Asked whether he needs a lot of consecutive starts this month with positive results, he said, “Yeah, I wish.”

Goalie juggling at this point is not going to restore Bryz’s confidence.

Looking ahead, March is the busiest month for the Flyers with 16 games to figure out who has the better chance to lead this club come the playoffs. That’s a while away.

Laviolette won a Stanley Cup in Carolina changing his goalies around. He doesn’t believe there is “an exact science” to getting a guy ready for a Cup run.

And he’s not married to one goalie, either. Just because a guy is in net in March, doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the guy in net come June – if his team gets that far.

“You could go out and make a case 10 ways, both ways,” Laviolette said about the importance of March in goalie preparation. “I don’t really think there is an exact science. I’ll give you a for instance.

“Cam Ward won the Vezina. He came in after Game 2 and ran it the whole way and didn’t get the majority of starts in March. You can make a case for Tim Thomas, who got the majority of starts.”

Laviolette will always leave the window open for the possibility that whoever begins the playoffs may not finish.

Yet it’s not too early to let Bryzgalov make a run this month and see where the Flyers are, even if it means living with bad, deflected goals.

“We have the luxury of having two very good goalies here now and as long as [bryzgalov] is peaking and fresh going into the playoffs, that is what we are concentrating on,” Reese said.

“We’re basically going one game at a time right now and that’s how we’re looking at it. Peter would say the same thing.”

Therefore nothing has changed.

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this reminds me of a hollywood director trying to cast the girl he wants as the lead in his film. she's a much more talented actress, a perfect fit for the role, but not well known. the producer comes in, slams the door behind him and tells the director that if he wants to still direct this movie he will have to cast cameron diaz. end of discussion. the director then casts cameron diaz and tells the media that she was his first choice along . .....6 months later the movie is released, does well the first week, then bombs with an average score of 38% on 'rotten tomatoes'.

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Laviolette has no choice but to express confidence in him, even if he has none. The alternatives are: "Bob is the starter." or "We don't have a starter." This would just be acknowledging that Bryz sucks, which is bad for Bryzgalov's fragile ego and bad PR for the Flyers, who might like to get something out of their investment or to move him someday and not have to give up three #1 picks to do it.

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Almost feels like someone was told to write this piece to calm the waters....

Someone likely was. By their editors.

Or their readers.

If the #1 topic on this website is "Should Bryz Be The #1 Goalie?" then it's reasonable to conclude that the same topic is being brought up by reporters covering the team and, by extension, the team itself.

I think Laviolette is playing this not only the way he has to, but also to his advantage. Bryz will get the majority of the starts and the chance to "find his game" and Bob will be the Ace in the Hole if things so completely South in the playoffs.

He's shown he has no difficulty swapping goalies in the playoffs and primed the pump with the Cam Ward reference right out of the gate.

If only Bryz was playing as well as Gerber did in that regular season... And even that wasn't great.

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Was that the season that Carolina had no business even getting into the playoffs, save for their 34509834987 OTLs (pity points)?

Carolina was #1 in the SE with the second best record in the Conference.


It was Ottawa that was #1 due to one more OTL than Carolina.

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Carolina was #1 in the SE with the second best record in the Conference.


It was Ottawa that was #1 due to one more OTL than Carolina.

It's wild looking at some of those numbers. I remember Detroit having a ridiculous season but 58 wins??? I didn't realize the Stars had that great of a season either. Times sure have changed for some of those teams.

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