Within the boundaries of any given season, there are certain moments which show up on the radar, forcing us to take notice that what we’re witnessing is truly special.
Most often, it’s a signature win against a rival at a key time. If we’re lucky, it’s a gaffe committed by the other side which allows our team to eke out a victory. As happens too often, it can arrive in the form of a significant injury which either galvanizes or demoralizes team spirit.
Some teams celebrate that moment with rodents, some with seafood, some with trips to Dairy Queen. Ilya Bryzgalov did it with a singular gesture.
So if the story of the 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers is about to be written, the interplay between Comcast SportsNet host John Boruk and Bryzgalov following a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on March 6 should get its own chapter pretty close to the heart of the piece.
All it took was a telling bit of non-verbal communication between two men of unequal standing, but that subtle message kicked off one of the most remarkable periods in recent club history.
Since the 31-year old Russian silenced the millionth useless question about his individual effort from the impeccably dressed Texas Tech graduate and intermission host before it escaped his lips, Bryzgalov ripped off a record stretch of 249 minutes, 43 seconds of scoreless hockey, the Red Wings game included. He’s won four straight starts and turned in three shutouts in three non-consecutive outings with his run ending at Uniondale on Thursday night in the late stages of a 3-2 victory.
It’s the stuff legends are made of, the clashing between media and athlete in this city which for once didn’t result in the nuclear option on either side. Some levity was in order. Especially since the one man who was most adept at reining them all in — Chris Pronger — may never set foot in a locker room again, and it was the easiest of targets who managed to do to Boruk what Mick did to that water buffalo in the original “Crocodile Dundee.”
Forget the drama surrounding Dry Island, or the Center City Crew, or John Stevens’ Pod Person impersonation. The shushing is quickly rising up the ranks of franchise folklore and may eventually take its place next to Brian Boucher’s Shootout Save in April two years ago.
There’s always a signpost, even if it’s not obvious at the time — and apparently even to the man who performed the feat.
“What record?,” deadpanned Bryzgalov when asked what that accomplishment “meant to him” following Thursday’s win.
And of course, Boucher entered the conversation between the second and third intermissions, as the Flyers led 3-0 and the shutout string reached 236:13. The two-time former Flyer holds the NHL record for longest scoreless run, at 332:01 back in 2003-04 when he played for Phoenix.
But the end did come, on Michael Grabner’s deflection with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation. And in typical dramatic fashion, things got hairy only 35 seconds later when John Tavares scored to make it a one-goal game.
“To think they’d never score against me a goal? You’re mistaken,” Bryz said to Delco Times scribe Rob Parent when he was asked how much of a letdown it was to have such a long streak interrupted by New York’s two quick scores.
And that’s just the kind of savoir faire a goaltender under the heat lamps needs to demonstrate in the thick of a playoff race. They score on me, who cares? Part of the game. They don’t score on me, team effort.
No amount of plastic rats thrown from the upper reaches, no slimy tentacled creature, no other physical talisman can fulfill the role and project the attitude of the most important position on the ice.
They haven’t carved Bryzgalov’s name into the stone tablet of team legends yet, but after the events of the last 10 days, someone’s gonna need to find the hammer and chisel.