Ilya Bryzgalov Still Proving His Worth to Flyers Nation

Ilya Bryzgalov Still Proving His Worth to Flyers Nation

Philadelphia can be hard on star athletes, especially those
perceived as being vastly overpaid. So when the Flyers traded for Ilya Bryzgalov's rights and signed him to a nine-year
contract at $51 million in the summer of 2011 – a whopping $5.67 per year – naturally
many fans became incensed before he ever played a game in Orange & Black.

Never mind Bryzgalov was one of the primary reasons a small-market
franchise in Phoenix was able to compete year after year, posting a record of
78-40-16 during his final two seasons with the Coyotes. And forget the
three-ring circus that had been booked in the Flyers’ crease the previous
two Aprils, with the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and Michael
Leighton getting the call during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

No, the concern was the length of the contract and the
amount of money, and to a lesser degree, that this Bryglaov fellow might be
overrated.

He did little to dissuade those fears during the first few
months of the 2011-12 campaign. In what was clearly an adjustment period for
Bryz, he posted a pedestrian .890 save percentage during the months of October,
November, and December, looking generally out of sorts while doing so. There
was a soft goal against him on an almost-nightly basis, often immediately after the puck
dropped.

Bryz also made several strange comments, at times sounding
defeated, like when he confessed to being “lost in the woods” following one
particularly dismal outing. He didn’t handle the increased media scrutiny that
comes with playing in Philly very well at all, and there were more cameras than ever
thanks to the upcoming Winter Classic – where head coach Peter Laviolette would bench Bryzgalov
in favor of Bobrovsky on a national stage.

Then something clicked in the second half. The young Bob
wasn’t playing great either, and the organization had loads invested in Bryz,
so he began starting with more frequency. And the more he played, the more
comfortable he looked.

Bryzgalov’s save percentage crept up along with his time on
ice to .923 over the final four months of the season, his stellar play reaching
its pinnacle in March when he set the Flyers’ record for most consecutive
minutes of shutout hockey. He finished the month with a 10-2-1 record, holding the
opponents to zero on four occasions.

This is what the Flyers gave him that huge contract for.
This is the quality of netminder nine years, $51 million buys you.

Don’t think Bryzgalov’s suddenly stellar play was a
coincidence, either. It was anything but. The front office had just shored up
some concerns along the blue line through trades for Pavel Kubina, and
especially Nik Grossmann. Part of the problem all along had been the Flyers’
inability to overcome Chris Pronger’s absence from the lineup, and the club was
struggling defensively across the board. Reinforcements helped.

Not only that, but numbers suggest Bryzgalov is at his
absolute best the more he is in net. His best season was 09-10, when
he appeared in a career-high, league-leading 69 games, setting personal bests for wins (42), shutouts (8), and
goals against average (2.29). He's also played 68, 65, and 64 in a season. But early on with the Flyers, Bryz was getting
jerked around, in part because he wasn’t doing so hot, but also because
Laviolette was trying to find adequate time for Bobrovsky. Bryz finished at 59 games in 11-12.

That’s why GM Paul Holmgren went cheap on a backup this
season, going with Leighton and adding Boucher as insurance. As long as he’s
healthy, Bryz should play over 40 games this season easy.

Of course, there were still plenty of questions surrounding
Bryzgalov coming out of the lockout. He suffered a chip fracture in his foot down the
stretch last season, and while he came back in time for the playoffs, the
momentum was gone, and he could not have been at 100%. Still, his performance in the tournament left a bad taste. There was even some talk
that the Flyers could use their compliance buyout on Bryz this offseason to get
out from under his contract.

I would seriously doubt the Flyers have any intention of
doing something so drastic though. The nine-year, $51 million contract you hate
so much – which by the way, makes him only the eighth-highest paid goalie annually in the NHL – it was a measured response to years of Leightons, Bouchers, Bobrovskys,
Marty Birons, Ray Emerys, Robert Esches, and Antero Niitymakis, and many more
fill-ins, stopgaps, and disappointments who served between the pipes for this
franchise over the past couple of decades.

They chose this route for a reason.

So far this year, Bryzgalov has given us nothing to complain
about, on the ice or otherwise. He’s been one of the few guys wearing Orange & Black that has
demonstrated some consistency.

Through five games, Bryz is 2-3 with a .923 SV%,
2.21 GAA – and the numbers probably don’t even really do the effort justice
given that several goals and opportunities weren’t his fault. It's been the big moments, too, like when he helped kill 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 power plays back-to-back in their win over the New York Rangers last week, or his multiple post-to-post saves against the Florida Panthers over the weekend.

Then again, there probably remains a fairly large group of people out
there just waiting for him to slip up. Neither five games, nor one
record-setting month are going to convince every fan Bryz was worth it. Maybe
nothing short of hoisting the Cup will.

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Watch: Eagles fan wearing Donald Trump mask gets roll thrown at him

Watch: Eagles fan wearing Donald Trump mask gets roll thrown at him

Philadelphia sports fans have a storied history of throwing things.

They threw snowballs at Santa Claus back in 1968 and bracelets onto the ice at the Wells Fargo Center during a Flyers home playoff game last April.

On Sunday, one fan took that long-standing reputation to new heights.

At a tailgate outside the Linc leading up to the Eagles-Steelers game, a dancing Birds fan wearing a Donald Trump mask had an Amoroso roll thrown at his face.

(h/t Deadspin)

Instant Replay: Mets 17, Phillies 0

usa-jay-bruce-mets-phillies.jpg
USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Mets 17, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — This time, there was no lead for the Phillies’ bullpen to blow.

Sunday, the Mets tagged five Phillies relievers for 14 runs in a 17-0 demolition and won the four-game series. 

The Phillies only recorded three hits against Robert Gsellman, a rookie righthanded starter who stands to play a large role in the Mets’ injury-ravaged rotation down the stretch.

The Mets — for now — regained control of the first wild card spot in the NL. They had entered Sunday tied in the standings with the Giants. The Giants’ game against the Padres had no score when the Mets’ game concluded. The Cardinals sit a half-game back of both teams. Their game against the Cubs does not begin until 8:08 p.m.

The Phillies fell to 70-86.

Players from the Mets and Phillies both poured out of the dugouts for a pregame moment of silence in honor of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who died early Sunday morning in a boating accident at 24 years old.

Starting pitching report
Jake Thompson showed life on his changeup, a pitch he has struggled to wield effectively since his August arrival in the majors. He ran into trouble in the second inning when he surrendered a double to Jay Bruce on a middle-in fastball and a single to T.J. Rivera, but escaped with only one run in damage after inducing James Loney into an easy double play.

He nearly imploded in the fourth, surrendering a solo homer to Curtis Granderson to lead off the inning and then walking Jose Reyes with the bases loaded and two out to force in a run. Thompson elicited a popout to left from Asdrubal Cabrera to end the bases-loaded scenario, but that was the end of his afternoon.

Gsellman erased the rough memories of his first major league start, a 5-1 defeat to the Phillies at Citi Field on Aug. 28 in which he surrendered four runs on five hits and was pulled in the seventh inning.

He struck out eight batters in seven shutout innings. Gsellman only ran into trouble in the first inning when he faced a runners-on-the-corners, two-out situation in the top of the first. He promptly got Ryan Howard to ground out to first base.

Gsellman even managed to reach base with a bunt single in the third despite not being able to swing a bat because of a labrum tear in his non-throwing shoulder.

Bullpen report
Phil Klein made his first appearance since being called up for the second time on Sept. 10. He had been dealing with elbow soreness. Klein retired just one batter in the fifth and surrendered two runs on two walks, two singles and a pitch that hit Rene Rivera in the left hand. He departed with the bases still loaded.

Colton Murray entered to clean up the mess in the fifth and allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. He added a scoreless sixth but loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and got pulled.

Frank Herrmann inherited the bases-loaded situation and promptly walked the first batter he faced, Jose Reyes, to force in a run. It was all downhill from there, as Asdrubal Cabrera took him deep to right for a grand slam.

Patrick Schuster gave up four runs in the eighth on a Jose Reyes double with the bases loaded and a two-run single by Eric Campbell.

Luis Garcia allowed two runners to score in the eighth on a Michael Conforto double, one of which was assigned to Schuster.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez’s 29-game streak of reaching base safely came to an end.

Freddy Galvis was the only Phillies player to advance past second base, singling in the first and then advancing on a wild pitch and steal of third. He was stranded by Howard’s grandout.

In the field
Hernandez and Freddy Galvis turned a 4-6-3 double play in the second inning in a runners-on-the-corners, no out situation.

Health check
Tyler Goeddel did not play as he recuperates from his concussion. Relievers Luis Garcia and Severino Gonzalez were unavailable last night because of ankle issues. Garcia pitched the end of the eighth in mop-up duty.

Up next
The Phillies will have a day off before they start their final homestand of the season against the Braves on Tuesday. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.75 ERA) will start for the Phillies. He has a 1.75 ERA against Atlanta in four starts against them this season.

The Braves’ scheduled starter has yet to be determined and their game against the Marlins scheduled for Sunday was cancelled once news emerged of Fernandez’s death.

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