Ilya Bryzgalov's 3 Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses in Net for the Flyers

Thomas BonifaceCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2012

Ilya Bryzgalov's 3 Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses in Net for the Flyers

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    When the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Ilya Bryzgalov prior to the 2011-2012 season, many thought that the Flyers had solved the goaltending problems that had plagued them in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

    For most of the season, their problems were solved.

    Bryzgalov recorded 33 wins and only 16 losses in 59 appearances.  He also posted a 2.48 GAA, a .909 save percentage and six shutouts in his first season as starting netminder in Philadelphia.

    His regular season performance helped the Flyers land the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  More importantly, it landed him a starting spot for the team throughout the playoffs.

    However, he struggled against both the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and the New Jersey Devils in the second round.  While his performance against the Pens in the first round did not cost the Flyers the series, his poor performance against the Devils in the second round did.

    Here I present you Bryzgalov's three biggest strengths and weaknesses.

Strength: Big Game Experience

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    Perhaps Bryzgalov's biggest strength is his experience playing in big playoff games.

    One of the best assets for NHL players in the playoffs is having former experience playing in Stanley Cup Playoff games.

    Bryzgalov brings plenty of experience to the table.

    He has played in 38 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his seven NHL seasons, posting a 2.81 GAA, a .908 save percentage and three shutouts.

    His experience in playoff games make Bryzgalov a valuable player for the Flyers and he significantly increases their chances of winning a Stanley Cup when in net.

Weakness: Lack of Playoff Production

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    From one of Bryzgalov's biggest strengths comes one of his biggest weaknesses: playoff production.

    While Bryzgalov has played in many playoff games, his body of work in those playoff games has not quite been spectacular.

    In the two series this past postseason, Bryzgalov gave up 3.46 goals per game and had a .887 save percentage.  Those numbers are a far cry from his career postseason averages of 2.81 and .908.

    Not to mention that when your goalie is giving up nearly 3.5 goals per game, there is more pressure put on the offense to score goals, which is not easy in postseason hockey.

    Until Bryzgalov can show that he can produce consistently in the playoffs, this will continue to be a major weakness for him.

Strength: Team Offense

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    One of Bryzgalov's biggest assets isn't one that falls within the realm of his control.

    It is his offense.

    The Flyers have stockpiled some of the best talent in the NHL on the offensive end of the ice.  Young players like Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Maxime Talbot make the Flyers a dangerously good offensive team.  Oh and they also have Danny Briere who is no slouch himself.

    They have shown throughout the 2011-2012 season and the first round of the playoffs that they can score a ton of goals.  And when teams are scoring lots of goals, it gives their goaltender confidence in net.

    If the Flyers can continue to score goals on a consistent basis, it will make Bryzgalov's life a lot easier and make him a much better goaltender.

Weakness: Team Defense

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    Even though Bryzgalov has no control over this weakness, it nevertheless has an effect on his performance.

    As good as the Flyers offense is, that is how bad their defense is.

    The Flyers' defense was essentially a sieve in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  They allowed the star players of both the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils easily get to the net and get quality scoring chances against Bryzgalov. 

    The Penguins were able to put 181 shots on goal in six against the Flyers and New Jersey was able to put 165 shots on goal in five games.  Bryzgalov let 37 of those shots go into the net in 11 games.

    Any netminder with a defense giving up that many shots shouldn't be expected to perform at a superb level all the time and bail the team out on a consistent basis.

    If the Flyers do not upgrade their defense, this will continue to be a weakness for Bryzgalov.

Strength: When He's Good, He's Good

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    When Bryzgalov is playing well, he is one of the best goaltenders in the league.

    In a string of five games in early March, Bryzgalov posted four shutouts and allowed only two goals to opposing teams.  He earned the NHL's First Star of the Month for March 2012.

    In the 2009-2010 season when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes, he won 42 games, posted a 2.29 GAA and a .920 save percentage.  More importantly, he helped the Coyotes reach the postseason for the first time since 2002 as the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

    The next year, he carried the Coyotes to the playoffs as a sixth seed with 36 wins, a 2.48 GAA, and a .921 save percentage.

    Bryzgalov has proven that he can help carry a team in the regular season to earn a high playoff seed.

Weakness: When He Is Off, He Is Really off

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    Contrary to the previous slide, when Bryzgalov is not playing well, he is really not playing well.

    Take Game 4 of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, for instance.  In a back-and-forth game between the Flyers and Penguins, Bryzgalov never took control of the net, despite being handed a 3-2 lead with just over four minutes to play. 

    Bryzgalov proceeded to give up two quick goals in those final four minutes and another quick one three minutes into the second period before being pulled.

    Now it may not have been completely his fault that the Penguins scored that many goals on him, as the Flyers' defense is also partially responsible.

    However, great goaltenders both establish their presence in net and make huge saves when the game is on the line.

    Bryzgalov has yet to prove he can do either of those things.