Ten straight starts and seven victories later, it would appear as though Ilya Bryzgalov has finally found that ever-elusive groove of his.
The timing couldnt be better, said goalie coach Jeff Reese this week. This is when we needed Bryz to get hot and hes doing that.
Heading into a crucial weekend of back-to-back games at Toronto and New Jersey -- the latter of whom is right on the Flyers heels in the Atlantic Division -- Bryzgalov has a 2.17 goals against average and .921 save percentage over those 10 starts.
On Thursday night, he became the first Flyer goalie since Marty Biron to get two shutouts in the same week. Biron did it in the final two games of the 2007-08 regular season.
Bryzgalov now has four shutouts this year. Thats four more than the Flyers had all last season.
It was great to see the ovation he got from the fans, too. Truth is, Bryz finally earned it. Flyer fans give out nothing for free. You earn their adulation -- or their boos. Right now, the fan base is cuddling up to Bryzly Bear.
You can visibly see a difference in Bryzgalov on the ice. His confidence shows. Hes challenging shooters. Hes more agile, post-to-post. He is seeing the puck and not guessing where it is. Hes making himself look larger in net, instead of smaller, which he had been doing.
Reese said Bryz is looking like the goalie he was last season Phoenix.
And what does coach Peter Laviolette see?
Theres no question I think confidence always plays in for players, Laviolette said. Just in general, if youre speaking about players or a team, confidence I think is always a factor.
He seems pretty locked in right now. Hes preparing, hes going out there, hes executing, and then he gets ready for the next one. Its more mechanical now, not his game or anything, just what hes doing.
Hes dialed in from day to day. He works hard in practice, he gets ready for the game, he goes out and does what he has to do and focuses on the next day when it comes.
Claude Giroux, who acts more and more like this teams captain in Chris Prongers absence -- no one currently wears the C -- said he felt good hearing fans the chant, Bryz, Bryz.
It was good to hear the fans behind him and behind our team, Giroux said. I can't even imagine how hard it was for him at one point.
He had a tough stretch and was pretty much being booed on home ice. He is our best player and we need our goalie to be the best player.