With Ilya Bryzgalov sidelined with a chip fracture in his right foot, it is fair to wonder how this will affect the Flyers stretch run, and more importantly their Stanley Cup Playoff hopes.
Not too very long ago, Bryzgalov was public enemy #1 around these parts. Flyers fans were concerned that paying the goaltender $51 million over 9 years was going to be an insurmountable problem as the goalie stumbled his way through the season. In the past month, though, Bryzgalov has been amazing. In March he is 10-2-1 with a 1.43 GAA and has stopped nearly 95% of the shots he has faced (.943%).
It has been Bryz that has stepped up and put the team on his back in the last month. The offense, once so prominent and prolific, has quieted recently and the team has turned its attention to playing better defense in tighter games. The kind of hockey you need to play in the playoffs. Bryz has been there to answer any concerns in goal, and seemingly at exactly the right time.
With Bryz’s injury, the team has put on a brave face. Everyone seems to echo the sentiment that it’s not a big deal. Bryz will be fine. For the Flyers’ sake, I hope he will be fine. But the truth is, the man is dealing with a piece of broken bone in his foot. Sure it will be wrapped and stuck in a skate, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be pain to deal with. Pain changes how people play.
If the Flyers are going to have postseason success, they will need Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes. No offense to Sergei Bobrovsky, but I’m just not sure he can get it done if Bryz is unable to play, or unable to play at a high level.
The Flyers signed Bryz to be the man. He was signed for just this time of year. No one knows for sure how long He will be out, but GM Paul Holmgren hinted that he might be able to play this weekend. The Flyers are almost locked into the 5th seed at this point, and have guaranteed themselves a playoff berth. Would it make more sense to let Bryz rest a little longer in hopes that his foot will be less of an issue? Or is it so important to keep him in his rhythm that you play him regardless of the consequences to his foot?
The loss of Bryzgalov could be a blow to the Flyers’ confidence. Bobrovsky is a solid back up, but he hasn’t played much recently. There’s going to be some rust. If Bob takes too long to work that rust out, it could affect the Flyers momentum that they have worked hard to build up. Going into the playoffs is all about being hot at the right time. The Flyers must play good solid hockey and keep this momentum going.
These are the questions that the Flyers will face in the next couple of weeks. Bryz’s injury could not have come at a worse time. The Flyers might have something special in this team, but without a solid #1 goalie, all the work of the regular season could go for naught.
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