VOORHEES, N.J. -- It might have begun with a few simple words from teammates in the dressing room after games or practice.
And to make certain the message was getting across to Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers leadership group met with him too.
Whatever was said in recent weeks, it apparently resonated with the Russian goalie because Danny Briere said on Monday that Bryzgalov has become a better teammate and that is as important, or more, than any stats or individual accomplishments.
Briere said that guys sat Bryzgalov down and told him he needed to redirect the focus off himself and onto the team.
In his last eight starts, Bryz is 5-2 with a no-decision and has a 2.47 goals against with a .905 save percentage.
You can visibly see a change in Bryzgalov on the ice, in terms of confidence and improvement in his game.
Yet it was the change off the ice that teammates demanded needed to happen.
Weve seen all kinds of Bryz this year, Briere said. Hes never the same. Hes all over the place. But the last couple of weeks, hes actually been a great teammate and hopefully, he stays that way.
Thats the way it should be. If he wants the guys to keep playing hard for him, he needs to be a great teammate the way he has been lately, and its been fun having him around, too.
You sometimes saw evidence of this on the ice with teammates not going up to Bryzgalov after losses, whereas they never avoided Sergei Bobrovsky in similar circumstances.
Little things mean a lot in hockey. Players need to trust their goalie on the ice and believe in him. Lately, the Flyers have been showing Bryzgalov a lot of love on the ice.
From the get-go, both goalie coach Jeff Reese and general manager Paul Holmgren have said that Bryzs biggest problem has been adjusting the every-day media scrutiny here and living up to his nine-year, 51 million contract.
Which is why weve seen a number of outrageous, albeit funny, remarks from him this season, even critical remarks that Bryzgalov probably never intended to say.
Its OK to be outrageous if youre winning and your numbers are good. Its not OK when youre losing and your save percentage is under .900.
Top to bottom lately, everyone says Bryzgalov has turned his game and his personality around.
He seems like he is in more control, coach Peter Laviolette said.
Being out of control with his comments and mannerisms the Winter Classic build-up comes to mind was the larger issue.
Before, just trying to bring everything, everything was about Bryz, Briere said. When he played well, when he played bad, everything was about Bryz.
I found lately, a lot more, its not just about him. Hes able to take the blame when there is and give credit to his teammates when that is. That is a learning process for him. New guys, new teammates.
Briere is one of several players in the Flyers leadership group. Their focus was explaining to Bryz that the club wanted him to do well, but also, they wanted him to get in line.
There has been some talks to him about that, Briere said. Its not something I want to elaborate on, but yes. Not just the leadership group. Throughout management, too. We all want to see him do well.
When he does well, it makes everyone in front of him look good as well. Its been a lot of fun. I hope it keeps going like that.
The coaching staff and management have said all along they feel a crucial part of Bryzs adjustment here was going from playing in Phoenix with almost no media coverage to playing in Philadelphia, where theres never an off day and where goalies are as plentiful as Republicans running for President.
For him, it really was an adjustment, Reese said. The expectations are a lot higher and youre under the limelight. He is adjusting to his environment.
Hes starting to feel comfortable at the right time and down the stretch, we need him going into the playoffs. Thats what I see in his game.
Reese said he had no direct knowledge of what teammates may have said to him, and even if he did, he would not disclose it.
Part of my job is to make him feel comfortable and feel good about himself, Reese said. I dont know what went on with the leadership group. I can say as much as I want, but coming from a teammate, it means more. I dont know what was said in there.
Bryz and I talk about a lot of things and our relationship is based on trust Im aware that it has been a huge adjustment for him I dont know if it has taken longer than I thought.
Everyone is different. I always knew that he could play better Now he is starting to play the way we knew he could when he signed this deal. And its coming at the right time, too.
Bryz is 24-13-6. Reese said the next item is more consistency, in the stretch run.
I think he is enjoying himself, Reese said. Hes enjoying the games more.
Although Bryzgalov lost 1-0 to close out a mediocre 2-2 Western road trip last week, you could detect definite signs of improvement all through the road trip that carried over into the weekend.
The emotionally-draining 5-4 shootout win in Calgary may yet become the defining moment for Bryz because his teammates were visibly happy that he had made a difference on the ice and saved them in his first shootout win of the year.
Braydon Coburn said he never doubted that Bryzgalov wanted to fit in, but that sometimes, what he said and how he said it, didnt sit well with others and thats when the leadership group gets involved.
That is part of his personality, Coburn said. He has a colorful personality. If you talk enough and talk often enough, something is gonna come out that you didnt mean.
Bryz, since he got here was a team guy. As much as hes said some things that have been colorful and entertaining, hes always wanted what was best for the team. Hes a great team guy.
Thats whats great about this group. We have guys who care about each other and pull in the same direction.
Come the playoffs, it could be the most important thing to have happened to Bryzgalov and the Flyers.