5 Reasons Philadelphia Flyers Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov Should Stay in Russia

Michael PrunkaCorrespondent INovember 20, 2012

5 Reasons Philadelphia Flyers Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov Should Stay in Russia

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    Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been playing for the KHL’s CSKA Moscow during the NHL lockout. Even if the lockout ends, Bryzgalov will benefit most from an extended stay in Russia.

    Bryzgalov had an interesting season in 2011-12. When he was up, he was practically unstoppable. Just look at his performance during March 2012.

    When he was bad, he tended to be pretty awful.

    He’s gone on record to say that some Russian hockey players may not return to the NHL even once the lockout is resolved.

    "(NHL) owners...they create this situation and they put themselves into this situation," explained Bryzgalov. "Like I said before, they have to take responsibility for their own actions.

    "If you watch what they did consistently, like saying: 'It's going to be (a) lockout. We're not happy with the system, we can't operate with the system that we had'...and (yet) they continued to sign the players during the negotiation process, signing the players to long-term contracts for big amounts."

    He could be one of those players. Returning to Russia and even staying there has a lot to offer for the elite goaltender. He should take advantage of it.

    Here are five reasons why Bryzgalov should stay in Russia.

Returning to His Roots

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    As silly as it may sound, returning to his roots may greatly benefit Bryzgalov.

    Think about it, though: Bryzgalov is very conscientious of the world and universe around him. That was clear as day in his many lectures about the universe during HBO’s 24/7 series prior to the Winter Classic.

    He also played some great hockey during his two years in the now-defunct Russian Superleague. In his rookie season with Lada Togliatti, Bryzgalov played 14 games and finished with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

    Bryzgalov’s mind is an interesting place. His time back in his homeland could definitely help him bounce back after the 2011-12 season.

Inconsistency Problems

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    Looking at Bryzgalov’s stats, it’s hard to say he’s not one of the world’s better netminders. From a game-to-game basis, though, Bryzgalov can be rather inconsistent.

    He got off to a rocky start last year, finishing the month of October with a .880 save percentage and a 3.16 goals-against average.

    Contrast that with the month of March, in which he started 13 games and had a .947 save percentage and only a 1.43 goals-against average.

    The rest of Bryzgalov’s month-by-month breakdown for the 2011-12 season is similarly up and down. When he was hot, he was hot and when he was not, he was not.

    It wasn’t completely his fault. The Flyers often times played with little or no discipline and the defenders in front of Bryzgalov hung him out to dry frequently. Even so, he has earned a reputation for being a relatively inconsistent goaltender throughout his career.

    The KHL generally plays a slower-paced game and Bryzgalov likely won’t face the same caliber of players he would in the NHL.

    By staying in Russia, Bryzgalov can take a bit of a step back and work his way back up to the NHL—hopefully becoming a more consistent player in the process. 

Confidence

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    This almost goes hand in hand with Bryzgalov’s consistency issues.

    All too often, the key to defeating the Flyers is getting inside Bryzgalov’s head. Once teams break him, they're be able to score goals in droves.

    This was never clearer than during Game 4 of the Flyers’ Round 1 playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the Flyers only needed one more win to sweep the Penguins, Pittsburgh came at them with its typical blitzkrieg offense.

    Once they shook Bryzgalov, the goals continued to pour in. In just over 23 minutes in the net, Bryzgalov allowed five goals. He was promptly removed from the goal.

    This was also a problem, to some extent, in Game 2 of that series. He manned the crease for the entire 60 minutes and allowed five goals on only 28 shots.

    The Flyers escaped with the 8-5 victory, though. They essentially proved to be the team capable of scoring more.

    Goaltender is such an important position from a momentum perspective. His performance has a direct impact on the entire team’s momentum. If Bryzgalov’s confidence is shaken, he drags the entire team down with him.

Playoff Experience

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    Bryzgalov is actually a great playoff goaltender. His struggles with consistency and confidence are detrimental to his performance, but he’s still a standout player when the Stanley Cup is up for grabs.

    He impressed everyone during his first postseason campaign. In 11 appearances with the Anaheim Ducks in 2006, Bryzgalov finished with a spectacular .944 save percentage and only a 1.46 goals-against average.

    His more recent playoff statistics haven’t been as remarkable, but he’s still proven that he’s incredibly reliable.

    This isn’t exactly a weak aspect of Bryzgalov’s game. Rather, more playoff experience is always welcomed, and it will help him contribute to a Stanley Cup-contending team like the Flyers.

    If Bryzgalov sticks around, he’ll likely follow CSKA Moscow to the playoffs. Any and all time spent in the net with them will undoubtedly make him a better postseason goaltender.

A Chance to Play a Different Style

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    Bryzgalov’s hockey career started in Russia in 1999 and is just now coming full circle with his return.

    Getting the chance to play for CSKA Moscow should help Bryzgalov expand his skill set. The KHL style of play is a lot more spread out. The bigger rink favors skating endurance and skating and doesn’t emphasize physicality as much as the NHL.

    While the larger rink doesn’t directly impact Bryzgalov’s playing style, it will change up the way the competition challenges him. The players shooting the puck at him will be playing a different kind of hockey.

    Having experience with different brands of hockey will make Bryzgalov a better all-around player. He’ll be more prepared for different situations, thus helping to make up for aforementioned issues.

     

    Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Sports Writing Intern. Stay up to date with him by liking his Facebook page and following him on Twitter.