Ilya Bryzgalov: How He Can Get the Flyers Fans Back on His Side

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2012

Ilya Bryzgalov endured a trying season in Philadelphia.
Ilya Bryzgalov endured a trying season in Philadelphia.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Philadelphia fans are not known for their tolerance.

They don't like whining, and they don't like excuses.

They got more than their fill from goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in his first season playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. They also got more than their share of inconsistent goaltending.

Flyers fans got an indication that things weren't going so well for Bryzgalov as the team prepared for the Winter Classic against the New York Rangers.

Bryzgalov was not playing well at the time, and his inconsistency in the net forced head coach Peter Laviolette's hand as the team prepared for the marquee game that was played at Citizens Bank Ballpark. Laviolette informed Bryzgalov shortly before the game that Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start.

Bryzgalov informed the media of Laviolette's decision before the coach had a chance to say so himself.

Bryzgalov's voice was dripping with sarcasm when he said he would "bring his thermos" to the game and "enjoy the bench," via Frank Servalli of the Philadelphia Daily News. Laviolette's preference would have been to keep his decision on the starting goalie under wraps. 

While Bryzgalov would work his way back into the starting lineup and his numbers in the net would be close to what they had been throughout his career by the end of the regular season, it was not the kind of year that Bryzgalov wanted to have when he was traded by the Phoenix Coyotes to the Flyers in 2011.

Bryzgalov finished the year with a 33-16-7 record, a 2.48 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Throughout his career, Bryzgalov has a 2.52 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

What made the season so difficult was that Bryzgalov was so streaky.

Bryzgalov got off to a quick start with wins in his first three starts of the season, but he finished two of the first three months of the season with save percentages below the .900 mark. He performed somewhat better in January and February, and then got red-hot in March, when he had a streak of three-straight shutouts and four in five games.

However, Bryzgalov struggled again in the postseason.

The Penguins lit him up in the first round in five-and-a-half games, as Bryzgalov struggled with a .871 save percentage. He survived the series because the Flyers were unstoppable on the offensive end and punished Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

There would be no such break against the New Jersey Devils in the second round. He gave up 3.2 goals per game against the Devils and had a .902 save percentage. New Jersey eliminated Philadelphia in five games.

After the season, Bryzgalov made comments to Russian news organization SovSport which displayed his unhappiness in Philadelphia.

Sam Carchidi of pointed out that the SovSport article mentioned that Bryzgalov said he was fatigued during the season and also dismayed by Flyers fans who showed their displeasure by booing during poor performances. The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Bryzgalov as saying, "What I lived through this season I wouldn't wish to an enemy."

A new season will be at hand before Bryzgalov knows it.

If he wants to turn his relationship around with the Philadelphia fans, he will have to perform consistently and avoid the ups and downs he had last year.

While that may be out of his control, he can't complain about "rough" treatment from the demanding Philadelphia fans.

Those fans demand a winner, and if Bryzgalov is not up to the task, he will continue to hear about it.