Bryzgalov aims to carry Flyers to the Stanley Cup

Bryzgalov aims to carry Flyers to the Stanley Cup
July 11, 2011, 5:49 pm
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The Anaheim connection to the 2007 Stanley Cup will continue again this season with the Flyers.

Last year, it was Chris Pronger and Sean ODonnell.

This year? Pronger and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the backup to Jean-Sebastien Giguere that 2006-07 season on the Left Coast.

Bryzgalov appeared in just five playoff games that spring, but he won a Cup and knows what it takes to win.

It was tough, really, really tough, Bryzgavlov said Monday during a conference call. Its great. One of the greatest moments in my life because it was such a long season, such competitive teams and such competitive players play against you, and when its over and youve got success, theres nothing better.

Over the past four seasons, the 31-year-old has averaged 66 games in net. That doesnt leave many games for a backup, which is why it makes sense to move Sergei Bobrovsky, who has the ability to start in the NHL, and whose 1.75 million cap hit is expensive to carry.

Bryzgalov boldly stated he could play all 82 games for the Flyers if necessary. You better get used to Bryzgalov saying things that catch your attention. Hes honest to a fault and not afraid to speak his mind.

On one hand, he said he can play 82 games. On the other, he later admitted being tired when the playoffs came around.

It depends on how much the team needs me, he said. If the team needs me 82 games, Ill play 82 games. If the team needs me 60 games Ill play 60 games.

Its the coachs decision and managements decision. Well see how much we go through the whole season. Its not a short season, 82 games. Well see. It depends.

The pressure on a goalie to win in Philadelphia is like no other. Sean Burke, the new goalie coach in Phoenix where Bryzgalov played, said at the draft last month that it was an eye-opening experience for him to play in Philly but that because of Bryzgalovs personality, it probably wont seem like pressure to him.

Hes aloof.

Still, its doubtful the Russian fully understands the whole goalie thing in this city.

I want to be the guy who can carry this team, he said. I dont know what else to say. I want to help this team win the Stanley Cup because people in Philadelphia and the organization have waited long enough.

Its refreshing to hear an outsider join the Flyers and candidly admit what Flyers fans have been saying for the last 36 years: Its time to win another Cup.

Many of todays Flyers fans at Wells Fargo Center werent even born when this team last won a Cup in 1975.

Its exciting, Bryzgalov said of the Flyers history. I am excited to join a great organization with a rich history. That was my first reaction and I expect a lot from our work together.

The Flyers lost the Stanley Cup to Chicago in 2010 because their goaltending failed when it mattered most.

They were whitewashed in four games by the eventual Cup champion Boston Bruins this past spring for a variety of reasons, not just goaltending.

This is where hockey fans get antsy when it comes to Bryzgalov. Despite solid career numbers during the regular season 2.53 goals against, .916 save percentage Bryzgalovs postseason numbers the last two playoffs have been awful.

That said, you cant dismiss that he single-handedly gave the Coyotes a chance to contend for a playoff spot. Theres a saying in net: Give your team a chance to win. Bryzgalov does that on a nightly basis.

Nor can you argue that Bryzgalov will have a far better defensive corps in front of him in Philadelphia than he ever had in Phoenix.

Still, it will squarely fall on his shoulders once the playoffs begin. Hes being paid 10 million in actual salary this coming season (5.66 million cap hit) to make the ultimate difference where a litany of others have failed.

Definitely I can play better, Bryzgalov said of his playoff performances. Last year, I think with Detroit, in a seven-game series, I think we had good chances, but in Game 7, we just ran out of gas.

This years playoff series, we came in already running out of gas because we had a lot of injuries in the two month race for the playoff spot. It was crazy in the West and we had lots of injuries and players were hurt. I thought I should have played better, but maybe I was tired, too.

Thats why I made some once-in-a-while mistakes. Its hockey and I expect from myself much better. I gave Phoenix everything that I could at that moment.

I expect from myself much, much better. Unfortunately, we couldnt beat Detroit. I know I can play in the playoffs, I have played before. I expect much better of myself in the future.

So does everyone else in Flyerdom.E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net.

Related: Flyers' preseason to begin Sept. 20 in Toronto First-round pick Couturier aims to make Flyers

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