Perhaps practice makes perfect. For the ninth straight game, the Flyers gave up the first goal Thursday night and the calmest guy in a jittery Wells Fargo Center still was Ilya Bryzgalov.
Maybe we should put in Sergei (Bobrovsky) only for the first save, joked Jaromir Jagr, but he forgot that Josh Baileys rebound goal just 1:35 into the game would have made the score 2-0 had Bryzgalov not made a full-extension glove robbery of Mark Streit on the first shift.
The Flyers, in their first home game after a four-game trip, came out flatter than the 51 million man has spent his first five months in Philadelphia on his face. Still, they beat the Islanders 6-3 because Bryzgalov brought the old, Phoenix Bryzgalov home with him from an encouraging Western swing.
He got beat on a rebound after stopping Bailey point-blank, by Bailey on a cross-ice feed to an empty net and by a one-time bazooka by Kyle Okposo from about six feet. Some idiots booed the last one, but you cant play much better in surrendering three goals than Bryzgalov did.
The Flyers are not only integrating two new defensemen, but because they are trying to be judicious in their first-pair use of a hobbled Kimmo Timonen, essentially are introducing three new pairs. Thus their play in their own end these days is an adventure, but after being carried by his teammates for most of five months, damn if Bryzgalov doesnt look like a guy finally ready to do some heavy lifting.
He looks very much in charge of his net right now, coach Peter Laviolette said.
Whether the right now was benign or pointed, only the coach knows. Certainly he knows the Flyers were not going to beat the Islanders Thursday night without at least four good Bryzgalov saves, including one on Streit when a late power play gave New York a glimmer of hope of getting back into the game.
Is it the increased work load? Confidence surging from the shootout stops in Calgary? If so, Bryzgalov nailed four Flames out of five by getting out a little higher while standing and waiting for the shooter to make the first move, just the way the Bryzgalov of the desert used to do it. He did not become a star in Phoenix by relying on quickness but almost perfect technique.
The happy feet that have been betraying him on an inordinate amount of deflected goals increasingly seem to be planted. When Bryzgalov waits, he looks as big as the Flyers thought he was going to be on Broad Street.
Asked if he feels he is getting his confidence back Bryzgalov said: I dont want to talk about it before acknowledging, I feel good and then walking away from the media.
An economy of words to match his economy of motion? Perhaps thats working for him right now, too.
Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of theFlyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.