Ilya Bryzgalov read it. He wont let us read his once-open book anymore, but after missing three games with a hot foot, that page is clearly turned going to Game 82.
With 11 minutes remaining in a 1-1 Game 81 with the Sabres Thursday night, Drew Stafford threw the puck across the crease. Bryzgalov knew where Tyler Ennis was standing and beat him to the half-empty net with a cool, calm and extraordinary right pad save that helped send the Flyers, 2-1 winners on Matt Reads breakaway goal, to Pittsburgh without a major anxiety.
They will leave others to worry about starting on the road or who is going to heal in time or who will not. Entering a first-round series against the presumed favorite to win it all, none of those issues matter nearly as much as the Flyers going into the postseason with a goalie capable of winning four rounds, which is something they can say for the first time in practically two decades no matter how it turns out the puck bounces over the next two weeks.
I thought he was terrific, Peter Laviolette said of Bryzgalov. He kept things alive for us.
We want to get him back in there getting some pucks and this was another step.
In Bryzgalovs second game back, there was no lingering sign of a missed week coming at the presumed worst possible time. He had the same balance and composure that made him the player of the month for March and makes the Flyers no one the Penguins should want to play in the first round, even if the hockey world believes the worst possible draw a team could get is Pittsburgh.
To be the best you have to beat the best, said Jaromir Jagr, meaning in whatever round, whatever it takes. This is an opportunity that can be embraced by a team that can finish with the most road points in the NHL with just one more in an otherwise meaningless finale in Pittsburgh Saturday.
The Flyers, who havent lost a game at CONSOL Energy Center in the two seasons it has been open, now have every opportunity to deny the Penguins, who are 1-4 against Philadelphia this season, any chance at restoring confidence with a win Saturday. The result does not matter and Laviolette surely will choose a lineup accordingly.
With at least three days off between then and Game 1, it is not likely the coach will save Bryzgalov, however. He has already had his rest and seems to have survived it well.
Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at email@example.com.