Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t have the smoothest start in Philly. While solid through parts of his first season he had struggles and was the victim of a damaged and bad defense at times. He wasn’t popular with many fans and was the scapegoat for the loss to the Devils in the second round of the playoffs despite playing well.
Bryzgalov started off this season strong, but fans still weren’t happy after the Flyers 3-1 loss to the Penguins on opening day. Bryzgalov played well, only letting up 2 goals with a save percentage of .923, but fans still weren’t happy with his play. It got worse for the Flyers and Bryz after a 5-2 loss to Buffalo, where he played well but let in 4 goals thanks to bad defense on the Flyers part.
The next game, Bryz let in 3 goals in a 3-0 loss to the Devils. He played well, but once again didn’t have much help from his teammates. Zajac started it with grabbing a rebound and putting it past Bryz with no defense in front, Clarkson then scored by putting a puck off of Fedotenko and in, and Kovalchuk finished it off by scoring on a breakaway. All 3 goals were preventable if the defensemen in front had better positioning.
Now, fans are finally starting to open up and realize how great his play was this year. The game that sold Bryz was Thursday against the Rangers. He saved 18 of 19 shots and had a save percentage of .947, including a spectacular save on Rick Nash when the Flyers were shorthanded. Fans were finally realizing the Flyers have and have had an elite goalie. Last night, Bryz played his best game of the season against the Panthers in a 7-1 win. Bryz stopped 30 of 31 shots with a save percentage of .968.
Bryzgalov is currently at 11th in the league in goals against average with 2.21 and 12th in the league in save percentage with .923. At the end of the season last year, Bryzgalov was at the bottom half. Right now Bryz is looking like one of the most solid goalies in the league and his play is just getting better. Fans are happy with the goalie situation in Philadelphia that hasn’t been all too great in the past decade. If his current play continues we can expect to see him as a Vezina finalist come the end of the season.