It has only been two games, but new Flyers starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has lived up to the hype thus far.
The Flyers began the season with a trip to Boston to do battle with the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at TD Garden. In the franchise’s second consecutive positive goalie debut (rookie Sergei Bobrovsky stormed onto the scene last season with a 25-save victory in Pittsburgh), Bryzgalov stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced in a 2-1 Flyers victory.
Following an opening flurry during which the Bruins carried the play, taking it to the Flyers in every zone, Philadelphia began to push back and controlled the play from the second period onward.
The highlight of Bryzgalov’s night was a flashy glove save on Boston pest Brad Marchand. David Krejci beat Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros with a pass onto the shifty Marchand’s stick, who faked to the backhand and tried to go high on the Flyers goaltender. Bryzgalov, however, was equal to the task, catching the shot just above his pad and snapping it up with a flourish.
Playing the humble card following the game, the former Phoenix netminder said that save was a lucky one. Suuuuure.
In game two against New Jersey, Bryzgalov stopped each of the 20 shots the Devils threw at him, notching his first shutout for the Orange and Black. Against the Devils, Bryzgalov was not required to be flashy. Instead, he used his strong positional play, which is the strength of his game, to his advantage. He was able to remain square to the shooters and effectively lock off the short side with his big frame. The only real tester he faced came off the stick of sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, which he gloved just above his left pad.
It is also interesting to note that Bryzgalov has yet to allow an even-strength goal, the only tally against him being Marchand’s powerplay goal in the first game of the season. Bryzgalov has stopped all 33 even-strength shots faced.
This coming week, the Flyers will encounter their first Western Conference opponents, playing at home against the Sedin twins and the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, followed by Mike Richards and the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Considering that there is a break of two full days between the games, I’d expect to see Bryzgalov between the pipes for both of these matchups.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
In a new feature this season, I will go around the NHL and offer tidbits of goaltending information which I consider to be interesting or relevant.
• New Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov has been excellent to start his tenure as an Av, stopping 66 of the 68 shots faced in the first two games and notching a shutout against defending champion Boston yesterday.
• Conversely, Varlamov’s former team in Washington has not had good goaltending to start the season, the new tandem of incumbent Michal Neuvirth and free agent acquisition Tomas Vokoun allowing a total of 9 goals in the first two games against Carolina and Tampa Bay.
• New Florida starter Jose Theodore opened his tenure as a Panther with an impressive 27-save shutout of the New York Islanders. To this point, three goaltenders have opened their seasons with a shutout (Reimer, Theodore, and Conklin).
• On the Island, Al Montoya continues to make his case that he, not Rick Dipietro, is the Islanders’ goalie of the future, stopping 47-of-50 shots faced while starting the Isles’ opening two games.