UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Not that every game isn’t critical at this point, but tonight’s game against the eighth-seeded Islanders is hyper-critical, given the Flyers are five points out of a playoff spot.
That's why the decision to start recently acquired goalie Steve Mason over Ilya Bryzgalov, who has started 36 of the last 38 games, was a bit of a shocker, given Bryz has had a couple days off now.
“Not surprised I am not starting,” Bryzgalov said. “I was tired.”
He said he wasn’t allowed to say whether he told coach Peter Laviolette he needed a break.
“I played, like, what, 22 [games in a row]?” Bryzgalov asked. The goalie said he doesn’t have any major injuries, but “you're sore here, you’re sore there, every day it’s something new.”
He admitted he needed a night off, and Laviolette didn’t seem to dispute that.
Bryzgalov is second in the NHL in games played (38); second in starts (36); and third in minutes played (2,059:25).
Last season, Bryzgalov was 17th in starts and 15th in games played. Percentage-wise, he started 72 percent of games that first year. This year? He's at 94.7 percent.
“There’s no question, Bryz has had a lot of work,” Laviolette said. “Just coming in here with Mason not getting a practice, but being able to take in 20 minutes of the last game, I think it’s a better situation for him now to come in. Certainly, there is no denying that Bryz has had a heavy work load here. But … after losing that last game [in Winnipeg], when you’re winning games in a row, you are reluctant to change things up.
“Mason was brought here to be part of a goaltending duo. … We wanted to make sure [Mason] was ready and getting work the last game and getting practice in, it’s a good opportunity.”
As per club policy, Mason was not permitted to talk because it was game day and he’s starting, even though Mason asked the PR staff if he could talk.
“It’s always fun for us when you see a new guy play his first game for us,” Simon Gagne said. “Bryz has been playing a lot of games for us. It gives him a chance to rest and get ready for the last push of the season. We’re all excited to see what Mason will do for us.”
Added defenseman Luke Schenn, “It was good that [Mason] got a period under his belt and get a little more comfortable with guys in front of him [before making a start]. It was just one period but one [period] is better than none.”
Bryzgalov also said he wasn’t surprised at the Flyers acquiring a goalie at last week’s trade deadline.
“We’re just employees here,” he said. “I don’t think about it. You got to accept it.”
He added he respects whatever decisions management makes -- which means he may have to accept the fact that the team could amnesty him only two years into his nine-year, $51 million deal.
“To be honest, I don’t care,” he told the Courier Post. “Really, I don’t care. I have no control on this, so why should I care?”