By now, it's apparent that the Philadelphia Flyers have more faith in Sergei Bobrovsky than Ilya Bryzgalov. This isn't some feeling or notion to that effect; this is Kimmo Timonen telling CSN Philly on Monday:
"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."
When have you heard a player say that about Bryzgalov? Not recently; like, as a Flyer?
The only thing Bryzgalov has successfully established in Philly is that (a) he's an eccentric to the point where he should have an honorary Joaquin Phoenix beard and (b) he had a nine-year contract and a team owner that lobbied for it, so Peter Laviolette needs to say things like "Bryz was brought here to be a horse and has received the majority of games. I don't see that changing," despite having a save percentage of .891 and a GAA of over three.
Reader Tyler Richardson offered a theory on the rise and fall of Bryz in Philly, such as the rise was. And he links it to that infamous first episode of HBO "24/7" in which the goalie revealed how huMANGous big the universe is.
Tyler believes that Episode 1 of HBO "24/7," which debuted on Dec. 14 and turned Bryzgalov into a national sensation/punchline/cult hero, marks the point in which Bryzgalov began to fall apart.
To that end:
Bryzgalov, Pre-Universe Speech: 14-5-2, 2.74 GAA
Bryzgalov, Post-Universe Speech: 2-5-1, 3.97 GAA
There are, of course, mitigating circumstances: Injuries, slumps, schedules, all of it. But those are the numbers.
Those are the raw numbers for Bryzgalov. In addition, Bryzgalov was 12-2 (2.21 GAA) leading up to the Universe episode! Do you think it was chance that has caused this drastic turn-around? Or, is it more likely that he was singled out and ostracized on HBO in front of the whole hockey community? Be honest. Isn't one of the biggest factors for a goalie his confidence? It seems it would be hard to have confidence when all of your teammates appear to genuinely dislike you and have no problem showing it.
Well, the dislike in the locker room thing is all speculation. The Flyers I've spoken to about Bryz see him as a crackpot, no doubt, but any ill will is probably cured with a few more victories and standout performances.
Unless, of course, they just resent his contract, in which case we can already welcome him to next year's Sports Illustrated players' survey Overrated List.
Bryzgalov starts Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and Y! Sports Contributor Network's Mark Paul wants to see something from him:
That said it is time for Bryzgalov to reward that faith. It feels like it has been a long time since he had a strong performance. With this little endorsement, he should feel more confident. When the Flyers host the Wild, Bryzgalov needs to come up with a strong game. He is due for a spectacular effort and he really needs one. The criticism of his play only intensifies with each passing game. There are no more HBO cameras to make us laugh at his antics. All we see now is a goalie that is struggling. I have faith that Bryzgalov can turn thing around and start playing great hockey. But faith only goes so far. He needs to show everyone that he is the number one goalie. No one else can say he is.
Josh Janet on GCobb.com is "a huge supporter of Bobrovsky, but this is the week to let Bryzgalov put his $51 million where his mouth is and show he deserves the starts." He writes:
Randy Miller of the Courier-Post stated yesterday, "Bryz has told me he needs the work. That's what he thinks gets him sharp and keeps him sharp."
This is the week to let him prove it. It's early enough that the team can bounce back if teams like the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins gain points against them. The schedule also works out conveniently as a benchmark for Bryzgalov.
The cameras are long gone. The coach has given him a vote of confidence. Is it make or break time for Bryzgalov as the Flyers battle in the East? Maybe. Is this week a huMANGous big chance for him to rein in his game? Definitely.