Philadelphia Flyers’ Ilya Bryzgalov problem: After Penguins’ Game 4 blowout, critics pile on goalie

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When you're down 3-0 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series, the most important factor in rallying out of that hole is changing the conversation, be it in the room, in the media or in the stands.

The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished that in their Game 3 loss: The fights, scrums and Sidney Crosby bile combined with ongoing suspension drama for James Neal, Arron Asham and Craig Adams to overshadow what should have been the storyline entering Game 4: That a Stanley Cup Final favorite was about to get turfed, and it was chiefly due to their franchise goaltender being a Wal-Mart greeter for flying rubber discs from opponents.

Instead, the antics of Game 3 led to the officials exerting their influence in Game 4: The Penguins and Flyers combined for 14 power plays and 100 penalty minutes, with the Flyers getting 64 of them. Pittsburgh's 10-3 win was as shocking as anything we've seen in this series, and that's saying something.

But conversation evolved again after Game 4, as Marc-Andre Fleury turned the tables on Ilya Bryzgalov. The Penguins goalie was the one who started terribly and then maintained a level of competence the rest of the way to lead his team to victory.

That was Bryzgalov's bag in the first three games. In the fourth game, an elimination game, he ended up being pulled after five goals on 18 shots, and then watched his backup Sergei Bobrovsky feebly post the same numbers.

We don't want to say the goaltending in this series has been spoiled milk on a rotten Edible Arrangements display putrid, but …

Game 5 will reveal how much this series has changed via the Penguins' 10-3 Game 4 victory, but one thing's clear:

For the first time, Ilya Bryzgalov is discovering what it's like to be a Philadelphia Flyers playoff goalie.

Bryzgalov was lifted in Game 4 after five goals in 23:07.

Coach Peter Laviolette said after the game that "at that point, Bryz needed to come out. He had seen … I think our team … it's hard to just say Bryz or our team or anybody. Generally speaking, we all have to be better at what we do. He had seen five goals. That's enough for him. He's been carrying the load for us. It's important for him to come out of that situation."

Is he pleased with his goaltending?

"Yes," he said. "It was an off-game for us. The first few games in Pittsburgh, he made spectacular saves. But if you tie everything together, it makes it more difficult to answer that with a yes or a no."

Here's The Universe after the 10-3 loss, talking about the "world class players" of the Penguins and the chances the Flyers have given them:

The key exchange in that video was a question about Bryzgalov's injured foot. He had a chip fracture in "a weight-bearing bone in his foot" in late March, which was in injury that doctors felt he could play through.

When asked about it last night?

"We're not talking about the injuries."

What people are talking about: Bryzgalov's play in the series, being that goaltending woes have been undermining Flyers' Stanley Cup runs for the better part of 25 years.

Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer calls is a "curse" and worries about Bryzgalov's psyche:

A Bryzgalov meltdown was the one thing that could give the Penguins a real chance and the worst thing for the Flyers if they do manage to close this thing out.

Lo and behold, Bryzgalov lost control of a rebound (Evgeni Malkin thanked him), flopped around on the side of the net (Jordan Staal tipped his helmet), and stood statue-still as shots whizzed by (Matt Niskanen and Kris Letang will send cards).

This series had become a race against the clock for the Flyers. They had overwhelmed Pittsburgh's defenses so thoroughly, it was all too easy to overlook Bryzgalov's shaky play. He was OK in Game 1, wildly erratic (with some admittedly huge clutch saves) in Game 2, and just plain wobbly in Game 3. The question was whether the Flyers could close this thing out before Bryzgalov produced a fullblown, bats-fleeing-the-belfry howler.

Wrote Sarah Baicker of

Unfortunately for the Flyers, a Bryzgalov collapse is nothing new. He had breakdowns during the regular season, certainly more than his teammates would have preferred. The silver lining, perhaps, is that he emerged from each of them rather unscathed.

"The most important thing is he has to have confidence in himself," Jaromir Jagr said. "Nobody is going to help him but himself. I think he is OK. He had games like that [before] when other teams scored a lot of goals. It's not his fault. We didn't play very good defense. There's a lot of power play and a lot of 2-on-1's."

Wrote Sam Donnellon of Broad Street Bull:

But Bryz has been an uneasy fit right from the start, and he's far too old to blame his yips on and off the ice on immaturity. Just a guess, but after watching his countryman for an entire season, I'll bet Bob isn't in any hurry to learn our language.

I wish he was in a hurry to take the job from him, though, which also does not appear to be the case. Bob allowed five more goals after taking over in the second period, and the press box jokes were on.

Leighton was downstairs dressing . . . Neil Little was downstairs dressing . . .

Bernie Parent - who didn't look half-bad a couple of months ago - was ready to turn things around.

Rich Hoffman of the Daily News gave Bryzgalov this concession: "Bryzgalov was bad but not godawful."

Quite the complement.

There are ebbs and flows to every playoff series. Fleury, it could be argued, handed Games 2 and 3 to the Flyers with his maddeningly inconsistent play. Bryzgalov, it could be argued, had his own struggles eclipsed by the horrible play of his opponents.

But if a Pittsburgh Penguins rally from 3-0 still seems outlandish, Fleury finding his footing while Bryzgalov's remains fractured doesn't.

Again: Welcome to Being a Philadelphia Flyers Playoff Goaltender, Mr. Bryzgalov. Keep an eye out for bears …