Ilya Bryzgalov, Tim Thomas Rollercoasters Continue: NHL Stock Up, Stock Down

Zach WeinstockContributor IMarch 14, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 06: Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings  at Wells Fargo Center on March 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Stanley Cup handicappers are taught at a young age about that mythical creature, the "Hot Goalie," who locks up a team's goal cage in the spring time and throws an entire conference out of whack.

Mid-March is when the "Hot Goalie" begins to defrost. The Flyers finally have one. The Bruins finally do not.


Stock Up: Ilya Bryzgalov, the Goaltender

"Holy Moly!" would be the best reaction to what's been going on recently with Nobody Beats the Bryz.

For the sake of fun and art, here are Bryzgalov's numbers from his last five contests: 5-0-0, .986 save percentage, 0.39 goals against average, four shutouts.

Tuesday night, Bryz joined John Vanbiesbrouk as the only two goalies in franchise history to record three straight perfect games. He will go for the record Thursday night against the Islanders.

The same guy who dawdled his way to an .898 save percentage and a 2.82 goals against average in is first 41 games has allowed only 12 goals in nine games since, begging the question: Do the Flyers have their most legitimate playoff threat in goal since Ron Hextall?

Based on the last two postseasons, your answer would be no. Each Red Wings series was a disaster in its own way.

However, Bryzgalov played 69 and 68 regular season games respectively in 2010 and 2011.

He will enter the 2012 playoffs at least 10 games fresher, partly because backup Sergei Bobrovsky has had some good stretches, but mostly because Bryzgalov himself has had so many bad ones, forcing coach Peter Laviolette to sit him down.

In his first two playoff runs with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2006 and 2007, Bryzgalov performed very well.


Stock Down: Ilya Bryzgalov, the Soundbite

Even if Bryzgalov's hot streak fizzles out, it appears the cute anecdotes about how much he stinks will not be making a comeback.

According to Comcast Sportsnet, Flyers players met with Bryzgalov a few weeks ago and asked him to tone down his act.

"The last couple of weeks, he's actually been a great teammate," said Danny Briere, the current de facto captain with Chris Pronger out for the season. "Hopefully he stays that way."


Until last week, the Bryzgalov story had all the ingredients of the next great American train wreck — a $51 million contract, a notoriously nasty fanbase, popular star players traded to make room and a save percentage below .900.

In the background is a star goalie who died 25 years ago that the franchise has still never truly replaced.

Still, after every loss, Bryzgalov was impossible to hate as he'd struggle to find words to describe how badly he'd played. 

It was broken English for a broken heart, and it worked.

Now Flyers leaders have asked Bryzgalov to deflect attention from himself, which is the last thing fans want during tough times.


Stock Down: Tim Thomas

Thomas was pulled in Pittsburgh on Sunday and in Tampa on Tuesday. His numbers this March are gruesome: 3-3-0, .852 save percentage, 3.73 goals against average.

This would usually be about the time Tuukka Rask plays a few games.

Unfortunately, Rask is out for the rest of the regular season and the Bruins, losers of three in a row and five out of seven, have seen their Northeast division lead dwindle to just a game-and-a-half over Ottawa.