Going into last night’s Flyers-Penguins game, some were questioning Laviolette’s decision to start Bryzgalov for the 2nd night in a row. Those people quickly quieted down.
Ilya played three straight games on the road, and the game vs the Flyers’ cross-state rivals was the second half of games on back-to-back nights. It was a very solid game for Bryzgalov.
Despite allowing two goals, one with not much time in the 2nd and one about halfway through the 3rd, he shined particularly late in the 3rd when the Penguins seemed to throw everything they had at him. As the time left was slowly winding down, made numerous saves on Neal, Niskanen, and Malkin. One save came with just 4 seconds left on a last-ditch try from Malkin.
Starting Bryzgalov was definitely a smart decision by Peter Laviolette, for two reasons:
1) Flyers got the win and he played great, of course, and…
2) Bryzgalov is starting to gain confidence in himself.
“Had it been a different opponent I might have considered something different,” said Laviolette. “But we want to get him going, get him playing, and it was a big game for first in the conference tonight.”
It’s important for Bryzgalov to get going if the Flyers want to continue their success and achieve the ultimate goal of every NHL team. To sum up his year so far in one word, you could use “inconsistent.”
Here’s his game log, courtesy of NHL.com
What really stands out is 3 wins in the beginning of the season and an goals against average of .952. He then goes on a 5 game losing streak with a .793 GAA. Then back to 3 wins in a row again.
At times he’s showed he’s capable of being the elite goaltender people expect out of him. At other times, he’s been shaky and many start to question his $51 million paycheck.
Laviolette giving him the nod after a game the night before must have raised his confidence, though.
“He’s starting to look more comfortable,” said Laviolette. “I think our team is starting to look more comfortable….We said from the start that everything was going to take time. That goes from the goaltender’s comfort level to what’s in front of him.”
With 4 starts and wins in a row, one of which was back-to-back nights, it seems like the Russian net minder is starting to get into a rhythm. Starting him in a big game against the Pens the night after he played was the risk Laviolette took in trying to get Bryzgalov going. Laviolette’s decision proved to be the right one. Hopefully this is the start of a long stretch of continuous wins and consistent play.
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