Philadelphia Flyers: Defense or Ilya Bryzgalov More at Fault?

Joe IannelloAnalyst IIIJanuary 10, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on December 2, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers have been an exciting team to watch this season that's for sure. The team was completely overhauled in the offseason with the trades of captain Mike Richards and assistant captain Jeff Carter.

The Flyers got bigger on the wings with the acquisitions of Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr, and have a plethora of youngsters who have exceeded expectations.

Matt Read is tied for the lead amongst all rookies in goals and Sean Couturier (draft pick acquired in Carter deal) has been great in all facets of the game. He can play both ends of the ice and Peter Laviolette is never afraid to put him on the ice for a crucial penalty kill.

Claude Giroux has emerged as one of the best players in all of hockey and pairing him with living legend Jaromir Jagr has only helped his game. Scott Hartnell (Sir Fall's A Lot) has 17 goals (many of the tap-in variety) and Danny Briere can still snipe with the best of them.

Then there is the $51 million goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, and his defense.

Chris Pronger is out for the season and the defense has clearly lost their swagger with his absence. Andrej Meszaros is now the lone Flyers D-man who is willing to clear the porch and protect the crease.

And Bryzgalov has left so much to be desired.

The guy who was supposed to end the goalie controversy in this town has let in a ton of soft goals and looked more like Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton than one of the league's best.

Bryz is 16-9-3 with a 3.07 GAA and .891 SV%, clearly not Bernie-esque numbers.So it begs the question: Who is more to blame, Bryz or the defense?

Yes, the Flyers are not as physical with Chris Pronger out of the lineup, but does a career plus player in Matt Carle really suffer THAT much when his defensive partner is gone? Take for example Carle's game in Ottawa the other night—Carle was a minus four and even scored an own goal.

Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen are solid and can lag a ton of minutes. Meszaros has been great ever since he was picked up from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon has played well, but Andreas Lilja has clearly been a mistake. Erik Gustafsson when healthy is a huge upgrade from the veteran (and slow as molasses) Lilja.

The Flyers defense has not been as dominant as it has in recent years, but Bryzgalov is being paid to steal games for this team. Has he done so yet?

Deflections, screens, own goals, etc. happen in hockey all the time but sound technique and positioning will overcome those occurrences more often than not. The fact is that Bryz has not been in great position and he needs to focus more on his game than on his next one-liner to the media.

Mr. Ed Snider has invested everything into Ilya Bryzgalov to be the "saving" grace for this team. He has not delivered yet, but a brilliant postseason run will make this conversation all for naught.

At this point in time, who is more to blame: Ilya Bryzgalov or the Flyers D-men without their captain?

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