Few hockey fans truly appreciate the difference having a legitimate No. 1 goaltender makes in all three zones—especially the offensive zone.
Flash back to last season. The Philadelphia Flyers were struggling to score goals (especially in the playoffs) and couldn't seem to generate constant pressure once they had a lead. The team never seemed to be able to work the cycle game for any consistent period of time, couldn't forecheck effectively and struggled to force neutral-zone turnovers.
What would you say if I told you that one of the root causes for all of those struggles was all the way at the other end of the ice, standing between two red pipes?
Well, it's the truth.
With mediocre starters Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher between the pipes, the Flyers were forced to play a conservative game in the offensive zone. The team was rarely, if ever, able to send two forecheckers below the goal line to win the battle along the board and gain possession. Forwards were so concerned with getting back into the defensive zone quickly that they failed to use their sticks to disrupt neutral-zone passing.
Because they believed that mistake or blown coverage in their own zone was an automatic goal against. With Bryzgalov, that's no longer the case.