NHL Playoffs: If Ilya Bryzgalov Does Not Improve It Will Be a Long Summer

John Bain@John_BainCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 03:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers sits on the ice after Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils scored a goal against him in the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on May 3, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So far in his stint with the Broadstreet Bullies, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has had a roller coaster year.

Dependent on the result of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the conclusion on Bryzgalov's year will either be positive, or very, very negative. There are not many fan bases that have gone through the revolving door that is their goaltending situation year in and year out, and not many fan bases as passionate as Flyers fans that can put up with that. 

The Flyers management traded away both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to clear cap space to bring Ilya Bryzgalov into Philadelphia who they thought would end all doubts in their goaltending issues of the past.

So far this season, the big-ticket free agent does not appear to be the Flyers best possible option. So far, the $10 million paycheck Bryzgalov received in 2011-12 does not appear to be worth all the pennies. 

Bryzgalov concluded the regular season 10th among goalies with 33 victories but was carried a dismal .909 save percentage and ranked 21st in the NHL with a GAA of 2.48.

The Flyers high-scoring first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't help Bryzgalov's stats entering the 2012 NHL Playoffs, and through eight games, he sits with a save percentage of .879 and GAA of 3.62, both of which are the worst among starters left in the postseason. 

As shown in the Philadelphia Flyers current series with the New Jersey Devils, when their high-powered offense cannot produce, the Flyers struggle to win and Bryzgalov struggles to steal the game for his team.

If Ilya Bryzgalov cannot improve his play, and the Flyers postseason ends in the second round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs, it is going to be a long summer for the Russian. Not only will it be a long summer for the Flyers management and organization as a whole, but so too, the devout fans of the men in Orange.

Flyers fans are a whole different breed of fan.

They care about the success of their team do-or-die and will pack the rafters of Wells Fargo Center win or lose. That being said, Flyers fans are also ruthless. If they have any goat to blame for the season being unsuccessful, it will be Ilya Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov may want to return to Mother Russia for more than just the summer, if things end on a bad note for the Flyers in 2012.

Not only was Bryzgalov exposed to the wrath of true die-hard hockey fans this season but so to was his personal life on the HBO series "24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic." If the fans don't go after Bryzgalov purely based on his play, they will go after his quirkiness displayed in the TV series. 

Now the Philadelphia Flyers season isn't over yet by any means, but should they not move on to the Eastern Conference Finals and even Stanley Cup Finals, there is no doubt Ilya Bryzgalov has a long summer ahead of him. 

Now when the wrath of Flyers fans comes to Bryzgalov's doorstep he won't know what hit him and may have wished he indeed did sign with Winnipeg last offseason instead of in Philly.

$10 million is a lot to pay for a goalie, and the Flyers gave up their captain and fan favorites in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to get the money for Ilya, and the fans will not be happy if Bryzgalov's goaltending is the reason yet again the Flyers are not successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist

Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports