Players who have the option of competing in Europe during the NHL lockout have the opportunity to sharpen their skills against talented players.
When those players are competing in the Kontinental Hockey League, they are playing against the best opponents they can find outside the NHL.
But what happens when players are not standing up well against that competition? Should their NHL teams be concerned if they see their players playing poorly in the KHL?
Bryzgalov has been a streaky goalie throughout the majority of his NHL career. He has only had one season in which his goals against average was below 2.43 during his seven full seasons. He had an up-and-down season in 2011-12, his first with the Flyers.
Ultimately, his season was a disappointing one for general manager Paul Holmgren and head coach Peter Laviolette.
He had a brilliant streak during the regular season where he registered four shutouts in a five-game period and did not allow a goal for 249:43 last March (source: NHL.com).
Bryzgalov had a 33-16-7 record for the Flyers last year with a 2.48 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Those numbers are very similar to his regular-season norm.
During the playoffs, Bryzgalov struggled badly. While he was in net for a first-round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was unimpressive. He was 5-6 in the postseason with a 3.46 GAA and an .887 save percentage.
Bryzgalov's sluggish play has continued with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. This is traditionally one of the strongest teams in the KHL, but it has been vulnerable when Bryzgalov has been in the net.
Through his first six games, he has a 2-4 record with a 2.92 GAA and an .892 save percentage. The 32-year-old has not looked comfortable, and it would be hard for him to blame his teammates. When he has been on the bench and Rastislav Stana, 32, has been in the net for CSKA Moscow, Stana has a 10-2 record with a 1.58 GAA and a .944 save percentage. Stana also has three shutouts.
Holmgren and Laviolette were concerned with Bryzgalov's play last year and nothing they have seen from him in the KHL should allay those fears.
While there are no guarantees he won't turn it around when the lockout finally comes to an end, it does not appear likely he will become a consistent netminder when he dons his Flyers uniform once again.
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