Ilya Bryzgalov was acquired to be the No. 1 goaltender for the team and that's precisely what he has been so far, and he will cement that designation as February turns to March.
There is a contingent of the controversy-loving press and the reactionary section of the fanbase that believes Bryzgalov should be earning his $9 million a year opening and closing the bench door for line-changing defensemen. You all know these people; this is the same portion of the Philadelphia fanbase that thought AJ Feeley was an NFL starting quarterback and that Ryan Howard should be benched as well.
They point to backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky's solid play as evidence that Bryzgalov is failing in Philadelphia and should be benched—34 games into a nine-year deal, no less.
They bring up Bobrovsky's better stats failing to mention that of Bobrovsky's 11 wins this season three have been against teams with winning records and that almost half of his wins have come against the horrid New York Islanders and the equally woeful Carolina Hurricanes combined.
They point to how bad Bryzgalov is in the shootouts (although Bobrovsky's not much better, his dance steps notwithstanding) but last time I checked there were no shootouts in the playoffs.
Also Bryzgalov's—and Bobrovsky's—struggles in the shootout allow them join a club that includes: Bob Esche, Antero Niittymaki, Martin Biron and Brian Boucher. Since the shootout was introduced the Flyers as a whole have struggled with it no matter who the goaltender was.
The backup goaltender is always popular in this town. A segment of the fanbase wanted Wayne Stephenson over the oft-injured and struggling Bernie Parent in 1976. That's not to compare Bryzgalov to Parent, but to demonstrate how crazy Flyers fans can be when it comes to their goaltenders.
Bryzgalov has done the heavy lifting this season, backstopping the injury-riddled Flyers who have seen their best defenseman, Chris Pronger, miss all but 13 games this season and their second-best blueliner, Kimmo Timonen, play with injury for almost all of the season.
Peter Laviolette is on record saying that Bryzgalov was brought here to be the man and will get a heavier workload as the season progresses.
Bryzgalov, who is used to playing between 60 to 68 games a season, has struggled mainly after sitting out a game. As Peter Laviolette increases Bryzgalov's workload, look for him to get better the more he plays.
Bryzgalov has in the past thrived the more work he gets; this was also evidenced early in the season.
He already put together a seven-game win streak for the Flyers this season between November 23rd and December 13th—and then he was inexplicably kept on the bench against the Montreal Canadiens.
He had seven shutouts last season for the Phoenix Coyotes and eight the season before that. It took him only two games to record his first shutout with the Flyers.
Seventy-three games into his Flyers career Bobrovsky is still searching for his first one. The Flyers play the Islanders three more times this season, so no doubt he'll get his chance.
As for the rest of the competition and the playoffs, look for Bryzgalov to be between the pipes for the Flyers.