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Flyers Post Mortem Part 3: The Flyers Don't Have a Goaltending Problem

Bryzgalov better than his numbers, Mason legitimizes backup spot.
Wednesday, 05.01.2013 / 11:55 AM
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out
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Flyers Inside Out
Flyers Post Mortem Part 3: The Flyers Don\'t Have a Goaltending Problem

There are two ways you can look at the Flyers goaltending situation.

The pessimistic view would be to examine Ilya Bryzgalov’s numbers from the 2012-13 season, see that he ranked 36th in goals against average (2.79), 43rd in save percentage (.900), 47th in even strength save percentage (.907) and 26th in save percentage while shorthanded (.866) and determine that it’s a mess.

The optimistic view is to see that the Bryzgalov was actually really good until he was forced into duty every night and wore down. It’s to take stock in the fact that he actually posted those numbers behind a patchwork defense for much of the season. And that despite all the negative press he received, he still finished with a winning record.

Couple that with the addition of Steve Mason via trade April 3rd, and his impressive numbers, albeit over a very small sample of seven games (4-2-0, 1.90, .944), and the Flyers appear to finally have a worthy tandem in place.

I tend to lean toward the latter.

Could Bryzgalov have been better this season? Yes. But considering all the factors outside of his control, in reality, any expectation of betterment on his part could only fairly be slight. There really were only a few games that he played this season where you looked at his performance and thought it was not up to snuff.

Yes, it would be nice if he made more stops on breakaways. Yes, it would be ideal if he would come up with more big saves on high percentage chances by the opposition.

That is the common gripe by sensible detractors (as opposed to the non-sensible sort who just dislike him because they’re predisposed to hating all Flyers goalies) and it is a fair one.

And if that’s something you want to hang on Bryzgalov, it is probably deserved.

But for the love of Pete, the guy was the team’s best player for at least half the season, if not more. To condemn him is over-reactive.

Put a healthy and stable defense in front of him for a full season, and I’m betting on a different outcome.

There was also a ton of pressure on him as the season progressed, again because of situational factors that were out of his hands.

He had no reliable backup to give him a day off. He had to start 22 games in a row as the team tried to recover and make the playoffs, and although he needed a break, he plowed through, fighting his fatigue to try and perform at his highest level.

Sometimes, he did. Others, he didn’t. But it wasn’t for a lack of caring, or effort, or desire.

Bryzgalov is actually a very competitive goaltender who wants to win. Just watch his reactions on the ice at the end of close wins. It means a lot to him. He doesn’t take hard losses well either. Some of his most memorable post-game comments have come after particularly difficult defeats.

That’s the sign of a competitor.

And it’s the reason I think it’s likely that he’s back next season and is not a compliance casualty.

That, and Mason, who still has something to prove, is a guy who wants to be a No. 1 goalie again and who has renewed confidence in a new situation.

Bryzgalov may need to be pushed to be better. He hasn’t really had that in his two years in Philadelphia. Sergei Bobrovsky was a clear backup in Bryzgalov’s first season – primarily because of the shiny, new, nine-year, $51 million contract Bryzgalov was toting.

Then, this season, it was evident in both cases of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher that they were veterans just happy to still have NHL contracts and neither had any plans of unseating the incumbent Bryzgalov.

But now there’s Mason, who repeatedly said during his one month with the team that his goal is to be a No. 1 goalie again. Like Bryzgalov, he is ultra-competitive.

Which is why I feel Bryzgalov should be back with the Flyers and shouldn't be part of the amnesty conversation this summer.

Over the course of an 82-game season, two goalies who care, who compete and who want to be the go-to guy can push each other to play at the top of their game.

Or, it could go sour, and lead to disharmony, and more aggravation.

But, like I said before, I’m an optimist. And I think the reason for that optimism is already in place – maybe you just need to look in the right places to see it.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 82 28 58 7 86
J. Voracek 82 23 39 11 62
W. Simmonds 82 29 31 -4 60
S. Hartnell 78 20 32 11 52
M. Streit 82 10 34 3 44
B. Schenn 82 20 21 0 41
M. Read 75 22 18 -4 40
S. Couturier 82 13 26 1 39
V. Lecavalier 69 20 17 -16 37
K. Timonen 77 6 29 5 35
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 33 18 7 .917 2.50
R. Emery 9 12 2 .903 2.96
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