Bryzgalov thriving as mistake eraser for Philadelphia Flyers

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

By Charlie O’Connor (@THG_Charlie)

As Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal raced into the Philadelphia Flyers’ zone on a shorthanded breakaway, the Wells Fargo Center went quiet, filled with dread that yet another special teams debacle was in the making.

Ilya Bryzgalov, however, had other ideas.

Showing no signs of fatigue while starting his second game in two nights, Bryzgalov easily turned aside the former Penguin’s chance. And seconds later on the ensuing transition, Kurtis Foster took a Matt Read pass and blasted a slapshot past Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis for a rare Philadelphia power play tally.

It was a two-goal swing, with Bryzgalov’s heroics sparking the unexpected surge.

Bryzgalov also was forced to withstand a fierce rally by Carolina in the third period. Down 5-2, the Hurricanes peppered Bryzgalov with 15 shots, with the netminder allowing just a lone power play goal to Patrick Dwyer.

“They really started to press the issue in the third period,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were chucking forward with their defensemen. They were high-risk, high-reward and ended up staying in the zone.”

“The second period was good for Bryz but he was as good in the third. He was a really strong player for us.”

Though Philadelphia has limped to a 3-6-0 record to start the season, Bryzgalov has thrived. Following a 39 save performance against Carolina, the Flyers’ goaltender has posted a stellar 0.920 save percentage thus far this season, a significant step up from his disappointing 0.909 mark in 2011-12.

“[Bryzgalov] has been playing very good this year,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said following the game. “He’s in the zone and playing very well.”

While Bryzgalov’s inconsistencies frustrated both fans and players alike last season, the 32-year old goalie has been the picture of reliability in 2013. His positioning and rebound control in particular have been top notch, providing relief to a defense that lost Matt Carle to free agency and recently saw Andrej Meszaros suffer a shoulder injury expected to sideline him for at least a month.

In 2011-12, Bryzgalov’s penchant for soft goals often made him the weak link in an obvious playoff team. But this season, the script has been flipped, as Bryzgalov has repeatedly nullified the mistakes of his struggling teammates with key saves.

Mike Knuble admitted as much after the victory over the Hurricanes.

“I think as players, you feel like [Bryzgalov] had to do too much work,” the Flyers winger said. “He did a lot of work tonight and we need to be better at making it a little bit easier on him.”

But Bryzgalov has been unfazed by the occasional breakdowns in front of his net.

“It’s not my job to make the statement,” Bryzgalov said. “If we win, that’s most important.  We get these 2 points.”

With a calm and confident goaltender as a foundation, more wins are likely to be right around the corner.

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