It may only be one game that is in the books in this young NHL season, but it was certainly refreshing this evening to watch the Philadelphia Flyers play in front of a real goaltender. Ilya Bryzgalov picked up his first win in the orange and black, as the Philadelphia Flyers held on to defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins 2-1.
Bryzgalov, the central piece in an offseason rife with change, proved to be the difference in the season opener, turning away 22 shots. Bryzgalov made some highlight reel saves and stoned Brad Marchand on at least 3 or 4 scoring chances.
As a longtime Flyers fan, it was an unusual feeling to watch a goaltender that looked cool, calm and collected throughout the entire game. Bryzgalov never appeared to be scrambling or in a situation he couldn’t handle. In fact, he stood tall between the pipes and seemed to bring some calmness to the rest of the team that appeared to be a bit jumpy out of the gate.
Tim Thomas, who single-handedly hoisted Boston onto his back and carried them to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1972, was almost as good as Bryzgalov, stopping 27 of the 29 shots he faced. Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers got goals from Claude Giroux (on the power play, assisted by Jaromir Jagr) and newcomer Jakub Voracek. The goals came within :47 seconds of each other at the end of the 1st period but held up as the winning margin.
Despite the excitement of a new season and a win against the Bruins (after having to suffer through their bloated, pompous pre-game ceremonies), it was Bryzgalov who stole the show. As exciting as Bryzgalov was, it was the feeling of complete confidence in the man between the pipes for the Flyers that was so unusual and exhilarating.