After yesterday's practice, a few of the Flyers finest muckrakers made their way to our star goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, in Philadelphia's dressing room.
Like clockwork, the hot ends of the mics were shoved in Bryz's face, ready to capture whatever outre remark comes barnstorming out of his mouth, or (as of late) what DOESN'T come out.
One of the beat writers, Sam Carchidi, finished up the interview with the question, "What's the biggest threat that the [Pittsburgh] Penguins have?" --
Oh no, he made a reference to his "Lost in the Woods" fiasco. WHERE'S HIS HEAD AT???
This is the type of comment that's inevitably going to be studied like a new virus strand under the microscope by every living, breathing Flyers fanatic with a pulse. But should it really be THIS perplexing? Understandably, considering Ilya's performances earlier on in the regular season and the fact we're geared up to take on the Penguins in the first round of the Playoffs, people may begin to worry after an interview like this.
But not everyone.
To take a trip inside an ice hockey goalie's mind, you sometimes need a puck-stopper driving the bus.
Enter my friend, Will Finnigan (@tattered666).
William's guarded the twine as far back as he can remember, and after seeing this Bryzgalov interview, I asked Will to shed some light on what may, or may not, be rattling on inside that circus tent we call Ilya's skull --
By now I'm sure most of you have seen the clip of Ilya Bryzgalov saying he is afraid of “bear in the forest.”
When I saw this video I could hear the gasps of fans all across Philadelphia and New Jersey. Together we fear he's lost his mind again like Ben Kenobi feeling a disturbance in the force. Here is my take on the whole Bryzgalov situation:
This time he exudes confidence unlike the very self deprecating, “I'm lost in the woods right now” from the 9 - 8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets back on 27-October.
His body language and the smirk on his face says it all, and was quite possibly poking fun at the mentioned lost in the woods comment, that he is riding high on how he ended his season. This is a guy who just set the franchise record for a shutout streak at 249-minutes, 43-seconds, and was named not only the NHL First Star for 2 consecutive weeks but also the First Star for the month of March. And don't forget this is the same goaltender who posted a record of 10-2-1 and a GAA of 1.43 in the same month.
From the video below, compare how he acts between the famous lost in the woods quote to yesterday's interview, and I'm sure you can see where I'm coming from --
Bryzgalov has had his struggles since coming to Philadelphia. His play was inconsistent and his comments were as hard to figure out as the universe, but I have said all along to my friends -- and even to the broadcasters on WIP -- "...give him time, he will come around."
Goalies are quirky, superstitious, and down right crazy. I would know, I have played the position my entire life and you have to be out of your mind to stand tall in front of a slap shot.
Bryz's struggles were unique in that he had never before played in a market that cared so deeply about hockey (after all, his previous squads were Anaheim and Phoenix), but that would also turn on you in a heartbeat. This alone could shake even the less crazy goaltenders without their team virtually playing zero defense in front them.
We know the man can play hockey and single handedly carry a team to the playoffs. He had proven that in his last two years with an abysmal desert Club, posting a combined record of 78-40-16 in 137-games with a GAA of 2.385.
The big difference between then and now is who really cares about hockey in Glendale, AZ? I doubt the team, let alone Bryz, got more then a mention during the evening news sports segment. He needed time to adjust and it seems that he has done that. Gone are the self deprecating jokes about himself, all he wants to talk about is the team and what the team did.
Bryzgalov turned the page after the shootout win against the Flames in February. Since then, the Flyers acquired veteran defensemen Niklas Grossmann and Pavel Kubina, the former of the two proving to be a real shutdown player. The Flyers defense has drastically improved in front of Bryz, aiding him to find his peace with this city and these fans. This is the drive he needed to play the way we all expected him to play when a guy signs a 9-year $51-million contract.
I'm not worried about Bryzgalov, and you shouldn't be either....unless he somehow encounters a grizzly in the forest.
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A special shoutout and thanks goes to my friend Will for his time and insight!