Ilya Bryzgalov: Why the Philadelphia Flyers' Goalie Will Win the Vezina Trophy

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Ilya Bryzgalov: Why the Philadelphia Flyers' Goalie Will Win the Vezina Trophy
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Ilya Bryzgalov arrived in Philadelphia this offseason on anything but a cool “Bryz.” Even with the departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, Ilya Bryzgalov is sure to turn some frowns upside down this season.

Yes, his numbers against the explosive Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs first round were ugly (same thing last year, too). Don’t the Detroit Red Wings have a tendency to do that?

Let’s be real here, shall we? The Detroit Red Wings couldn't have gotten a better match-up in the first round either year. The Coyotes with one 20 plus goal scorer were not getting in the playoffs without a goaltender of Ilya Bryzgalov’s caliber.

Now, put Ilya Bryzgalov on a team like the Philadelphia Flyers and his playoff numbers are sure to resemble those of his days with the Anaheim Ducks.

Let us rewind the reel a couple years. The Philadelphia Flyers talented Ray Emery. As fortune would have it, Ray Emery suffered a career threatening injury which required season ending surgery.

Not long after Brian Boucher stepped in, he too went down with injury. The Philadelphia Flyers suited seven various goalies that year.

Aside from the injury bug chewing on goalies, the Philadelphia Flyers also lost Daniel Briere, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Kimmo Timonen to injury. You don’t have to be a Flyers fan to know what those names meant to this team that year.

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With a final game showdown and eventual shootout with division rival New York Rangers and shootout specialist goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the Philadelphia Flyers made the playoffs.

With Brian Boucher going down again with injury, in stepped Michael Leighton. Leighton had never played in the playoffs.

You couldn’t tell against the Montreal Canadiens whom he posted three consecutive shutouts against. The Philadelphia Flyers made Montreal Canadiens fans think the ghost of Patrick Roy's past was upon them.

Unfortunately, the Michael Leighton balloon would pop. He, like any other waiver wire goalie, let in a soft goal to end the Philadelphia Flyers playoff run against the Chicago Blackhawks in OT.

So why does he bring all that up? I will tell you. The Philadelphia Flyers play a style of hockey that makes whoever is in their net better.

They picked Michael Leighton off the waiver wire. They rode him to the finals.

Ilya Bryzgalov had two bad years in the first round of the playoffs. However, let’s consider some things I did not mention. The guy admittedly suffered from fatigue.

“OH NO! How can he admit that? What a cop out!” Some negative comments were sent his way due to a recent interview (courtesy Fox Sports) where he admitted being worn down.

I have news for those of you who got upset about that. The guy played over 70 games counting playoffs the last two years. Almost every other goalie would be tired too.

Allow us to take a look at this year’s Vezina winner, Tim Thomas. He has played more than 60 games once. His preservation over the regular season paid off, as his counterpart in Vancouver, Roberto Luongo looked fried in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

In every other major sport, you rest your guys when the playoffs are in hand.

The Phoenix Coyotes could not afford to rest Ilya Bryzgalov because the last month of their season basically was a playoff run. Ilya Bryzgalov put up some good numbers then as well.

The Philadelphia Flyers won’t have to start Ilya Bryzgalov more than 60 games, that’s for sure.

Ilya Bryzgalov is the first goalie on the Philadelphia Flyers roster to have won 40 games in a season since Pelle Lindbergh (he was a Vezina candidate that year).

While I don’t like to compare stats from eras, one thing that should remain a good number to use is win totals.  The fact that Ilya Bryzgalov won 40 games with the Phoenix Coyotes whose biggest offensive threat is Shane Doan, is huge.

No disrespect to Keith Yandle, but the Philadelphia Flyers have at least two defensemen on their roster as good if not better. The rest are good enough to play in the same ice rink at least. I can’t say that about the rest of Phoenix’s defensive core or team.

Aside from defensemen, the forwards are expected to play a defensive game under Peter Laviolette. Yes, their goalies were bad in this year’s playoffs. Their forwards were equally as bad in the defensive zone.

With the house cleaning in this offseason, the front five should play better.

Ilya Bryzgalov faced over 30 shots a game. Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky faced around 27 a game.

Thirty shots against is a bad day for the Philadelphia Flyers. Thirty against is just average for Ilya Bryzgalov.

With the way the Philadelphia Flyers are able to pick up their average goalies and vice versa for Ilya Bryzgalov, this team will do great things this year.

One great thing the Philadelphia Flyers will do this year is propel their goalie to a Vezina Trophy for the first time since Ron Hextall did it as a Philadelphia Flyer.

Yes, Bobrovsky was supposed to be the future. Guess what? So was Brian Boucher at the same stage of his career.

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