Crashing the Crease: Slim Bryz, slim stats?

The 2012-2013 version of Ilya Bryzgalov could be a bit faster on the ice than he was last year. The Russian netminder is back to work in Voorhees, training for the upcoming NHL season, and has reportedly lost eight pounds over the Summer.

Courtesy Barstool Sports

At times last season, Bryz could be a little sluggish side to side. He wasn’t outright slow, nor was he heavy enough for weight to be a problem – at 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds, Bryzgalov was certainly not out of shape.

In fact, his apparent lack of mobility was a combination of a stylistic approach to goaltending that involves playing percentages and blocking, as well as a bit of funky body language that, at times, makes him look uninvolved.

But slimming down should make him quicker. Dropping nearly 10 lbs. is guaranteed to increase Bryzgalov’s overall agility, and that bodes very well for his lateral movements and recoveries. In particular, it should help to eliminate sloppy play in which he is a hair too late to move side to side, or otherwise over-committed, as in this goal by Pens defenseman Kris Letang from the playoffs.

On this play, Bryzgalov recognizes the pass, and sort of half-drops and slides side-to-side.

Perhaps recognizing that he’s not moving laterally and reading the play quickly enough, he sort of just drops into the butterfly and goes over, hoping something might hit him. But really, this play doesn’t happen that quickly. He should have had more time to get across and be in a better position to make a save. Perhaps it was just the product of having given up in a game that featured zero defense (with a final score in double digits), but in any event a slimmer Bryz may have better luck in such situations.

The following play from the Devils series was used by Justin Brennan in his article on Bryzgalov’s stick discipline.

What matters in this play is not the goal, but Bryzgalov’s movements on the first few cross-ice passes a few seconds in. Justin summed it up very well in his article, but the short story is that Bryzgalov did not do a good job at moving with his stick covering his five hole last season.

Observe the way he tends to lunge with his extremities first before his body (and eventually stick) follow suit. This is the hallmark sign of a goaltender chasing a lateral play, and usually means one of two things: he won’t make the save because his coverage has tons of holes, or he’s liable to give up a bad rebound in the process of making an initial save and getting scored on anyway.

Most of this is due to the fact that Philly’s cosmically-minded starter is not a particularly technical goaltender. His technique, like his personality, is a little bit loose. Technique aside, shedding that weight will mean that he is chasing the play a little less, and that should be a very good thing for his stat line — and the team in front of him.