He was exhausted. He was empty. Like an empty tank.
Those were Ilya Bryzgalov’s words on Wednesday, when he spoke about why it’s important to have two dependable goalies. So that one – in this case, himself - doesn’t get run into the ice.
Bryzgalov had another extraordinary interview with reporters on different topics. As usual, it was entertaining.
Although he said he had a good relationship with teammates, he would not offer details. Nor would he qualify, in any way, his relationship with coach Peter Laviolette or goalie coach Jeff Reese.
Because the Flyers had no confidence whatsoever in Michael Leighton, Bryzgalov was forced to start 22 games in succession from Feb. 18 through April 6.
This is why he was exhausted, and why he underachieved late in the season.
Bryzgalov led all NHL goalies in minutes played over most of that span, but is now eighth overall at 2,237:52, thanks to arrival of Steve Mason, who has started five of the Flyers’ last eight games.
Reporters were curious as to how he feels about Mason.
After Tuesday’s win over Boston, Bryzgalov was unavailable and his dressing room stall was completely empty.
He was supposed to start against Boston but Laviolette flip-flopped his starts. The empty stall invited questions as to whether Bryzgalov was upset at the switch or something else.
He wasn’t. In fact, he welcomes the rest.
“I think it’s a great for the team when you have two good goalies on the team,” Bryzgalov said. “During the season, I didn’t have much opportunity for rest during the long stretch. I was kind of exhausted. You have luxury of having second goalie who can play great, too, it’s wonderful for the team. You play another goalie and he can win the games, too.”
Would more rest have benefited him?
“It’s tough to say right now,” Bryzgalov replied. “At some point during the year I was, like, empty, like an empty tank. It’s a luxury when you have two goalies. A good luxury. You never know what is gonna happen. Some goalie get injured or have some bad stretches. It could be anything. If you have a second goalie who is good, it’s good for the team. It’s all about the team.”
Later, he added, “I can play better. I’m happy with my season but not happy with the result. How about that? I’m happy with my game, but not happy with the result.”
Would this team have made the playoffs had he had more rest?
“I can’t say that,” Bryzgalov replied. “I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t predict the future and we can’t change the past. We got what we deserved. This is it.”
What about the defense’s roles in this? All the injuries, their capabilities, their talent? Was that a factor?
“It’s not my business to discuss defense or offense or something else,” Bryzgalov replied. “You gotta understand. Hockey is a team sport. Is it right to blame someone, like blame the goalie, or the defense or losing the game or missing the playoffs. It’s wrong. We’re one team in the same boat. Sometimes goalie did mistake. Sometimes defense did mistake. Sometimes offense makes mistakes. It could be everything. You could say, ‘goalie should have this goal.’ But on the other hand, for example, they score on the PP (power play) and forward takes a bad penalty in the offensive zone. We never look at that perspective.
“If this penalty never happen, it probably never been a goal. It’s a team. You can’t say we lose because of the goalie or defense or offense. Or we didn’t score a goal.”
Bryzgalov would not discuss how much the coaching staff knew about him being tired or whether he complained, saying only that his discussions with the coaches were private and had to stay that way, as per club policy.
He would not say whether he discussed such in Phoenix either, adding that it wasn’t fair to compare how the Flyers and Coyotes do things.
There have been a lot of whispers about his relationships with Laviolette, Reese and his teammates. Not all of it has to do with his recent alleged “sleeping disorder" in a team meeting.
It’s no secret Bryzgalov has his fans and his detractors in the dressing room. So did Ray Emery, Roman Cechmanek, Robert Esche, Jeff Hackett, Antero Niittymaki, etc. You get the idea.
That’s not unusual with goaltenders.
Because of his gargantuan contract $51 million contract, there is widespread speculation around the NHL that the Flyers would use an amnesty buyout on him this summer, though the club seems to be more inclined to do that to Danny Briere.
Do you want to come back next year?
Bryzgalov tried to deflect answering the question by referring to CSN's Lisa Hillary’s blouse.
“Good blouse [Lisa] … What? Yeah, of course.”
Can he co-exist better with Peter Laviolette next year?
“What do you mean? Who tells you about relationships? You misunderstood me,” Bryzgalov replied. “We have some things. We’re not allowed to talk [about]. It’s not our job. There were two persons involved in conversations and I don’t think I have a right to speak up about to make it clear. Not because we have a bad relationship.”
How is your relationship with him?
“Again, it is personal,” Bryzgalov said. “I can’t bring it to the public with judgment.”
Is it as good as with Jeff Reese?
“How you know what kind of relationship I have with Jeff Reese? It’s kinda of private. It’s tough. I don’t think we can speak about it. I won’t ask you about your relationship with your wife. … I was raised with different views. He is older than me. He probably has a right to speak first.”
Good relationship with your teammates?
“I think so, yeah.”
Were you as comfortable in Phoenix as you are here or more there?
“I’m not gonna tell you,” Bryzgalov replied.
“Know why? Because you already got so much information [from me] today. Way too much.”
Until then …
He was exhausted. He was empty. Like an empty tank.