Flyers Faithful is pleased to have Kevin Christmann from Of Ice and Men, Danny Ricciardi from The Orange Update, Kevin Keating from Broad Street Buzz, and our own Craig Forsythe participate in the current iteration of Five Questions. This is the first of a five part series focusing on the playoffs.
Given his lack of playoff success in the past, do you believe that Ilya Bryzgalov can provide consistent, solid goaltending this postseason?
Kevin Christmann: I’m actually not even one that accepts his “lack of playoff success”. He has a career save percentage of .915 in the regular season, and .917 in the playoffs. I’m not as quick as some others to label him as not being a playoff performer. I think people may suffer from a bit of recency bias in that regard. Yes, Bryzgalov had a very bad playoffs last year. Phoenix was swept by Detroit and Bryzgalov only managed an .879 save percentage; so he certainly wasn’t pulling his weight. The year before that he was better, but not great, posting a .907. In his two playoff appearances before that, he was incredible, posting .922 and .944 save percentages. So at worst, he’s had two great playoffs, and two poor playoffs.
As for what I expect of him; honestly, I expect him to do well. He’s already been through, and overcame, just about as much adversity as a goaltender can endure. He’s been playing incredibly for quite a while now, and he is night and day from where he was earlier this season. I think, at worst, he will provide “consistent, solid goaltending” with the potential for much, much more.
Danny Ricciardi: Based on the turnaround he’s had thus far, yes. Bryz is a solid goaltender and even in his darkest days in the beginning/middle of the season, we knew that he was too good of a goaltender to be struggling the way he was. In the NHL playoffs, the number one reason for a team’s success is the play of their goaltender. Hot goaltenders win, and if he plays the way he has been post all-star break, we will be a real threat. This year’s Flyers club is much better than any Phoenix team he was on. I think he fixes his problems in the postseason and gets hot at the right time.
Kevin Keating: The success of Ilya Bryzgalov will, in part, fall on the shoulders of the offense. He’s won in the playoffs before during his time with the Ducks. As long as Flyers can give Bryzgalov some support, he should be fine. Despite his up and downs this season, the Bryz can win games for the team in front of him. As long as the Flyers don’t sit back and let the opposition lay siege to their goal, they should be fine. Part of the problem was the Coyotes were beaten by much better opposition. The Flyers however, are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and that could work to their advantage.
Craig Forsythe: I think Bryz will be a reliable goaltender in the postseason. I think there is a lot of concern with Bryzgalov and the playoffs due to his two most recent seasons with the Coyotes. Yes, he had goals-against averagess of 3.44 in seven games for the 2010 playoffs and 4.36 in four games for the 2011 playoffs, along with a save percentage of .893 overall, but I still don’t think the numbers and losses were entirely his fault. For one, the Coyotes’ offense wasn’t the most productive. Phoenix averaged 2.55 goals/game combined for the 2010 and 2011 postseason, as they ranked 11th and 12th in respective seasons for goals/game out of the 16 teams to make it. Another reason is the fact he played the Detroit Red Wings both years. It’s hard to succeed against a team who made it to the Finals in back-to-back years in the two previous seasons, especially when your team isn’t helping you out offensively. I think you have to say the Flyers’ offense this year is way better than the Coyotes’ offensive squads from the last two years, not to mention Philly’s defense is most likely better as well.