Ilya Bryzgalov: The Philadelphia Flyers' "Knight in Tiger-Painted Armor"

Joe Russomanno@@jriding4evrCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03:  Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on December 3, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Flyers defeated the Coyotes 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In almost any adventure story, a hero is pressed into action. Whether it be the death of a loved one or there is no one else to turn to, the pending hero is put in a new environment that he must master to defeat a foe.

Somehow a hero arises through some adversity to defeat the villain and save the day.

Ilya Bryzgalov gets his chance to be that hero now.

First, captain Chris Pronger went down, came back, then went down again.

Now, Hart trophy candidate Claude Giroux is bitten by a nasty injury bug.

Someone must take up the cause.

In hockey, you can't win without goaltending.

Just look at the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. They are heavily stacked with offensive talent but struggle in net.

Earlier this season, Bryzgalov had a roller-coaster ride between the pipes. He started out by shutting the door on the Boston Bruins, ending the Flyers year-and-a-half shutout drought.

Bam!  He then gave up four goals on 10 shots against Winnipeg and became"lost in the woods."

Suddenly, the fires of controversy were lit, and Bryzgalov's worthiness became the target of intense scrutiny.



Most of us knew this was just business as usual for Bryzgalov.

We hoped he could shake his early season ways and hoped that playing behind a Flyers defense boasting names like Pronger and Kimmo Timmonen would make him elite.

Nopehe needed his usual 20 or so starts to get rolling, and roll he has.


Earlier in the season, coach Peter Laviolette refused to start Bryzgalov in back-to-back games, saying, it "wasn't in the rotation." Yet, he suddenly started sophomore goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in successive games against the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.

Then, all of a sudden Laviolette went back to Bryzgalovlike a husband who comes crawling back to his wife after leaving her for that hot 22-year-old.

Bryzgalov has started six games in-a-row and has gone undefeated in all of them. In games one and three of this stint he found himself giving up three early goals, but Laviolette stayed with him realizing "Bryz" gets better as the game goes on.

The last three games of this stint Bryzgalov found himself facing three potent scoring teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay, and Washington Capitals. With exception to the Penguins, the Flyers have struggled with these teams.

Bryzgalov yielded a measly five goals in three games against names like Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, and even Alex Ovechkinwho almost has a goal in every game against the orange and black.



With a future Hall of Fame defenseman in Pronger out and the league's best player this year in Giroux out indefinitely, the Flyers will need Bryzgalov to be the man.

Philly "Phaithful" can remember another injury-plagued season where a goalie carried them to Game 7 of the the Stanley Cup Finals.

While the Flyers haven't quite logged the fighting time the way Rick Tocchet and company did in 1987, this team makes me reminisce fondly of those days.


This year's team is young and has shown scoring can come from anywhere at anytime.

They play for each other the way the '87 team did. Quite frankly I can't think of a Flyers team that has showed as much resiliency as that one except the 2010 team.

This year, the Flyers need that one piece like they did in '87 to be the hero, the goaltender.

In an earlier article, I elaborated on how Bryzgalov's helmet reminds me of the Survivor song from Rocky III. The more I watch Bryzgalov, the more I can't help but see him as the hockey version of Rocky.

He gets beat up early in games at times but gets better as the fight goes on.

Right now he's hit a stride, just like Stallone's hero did in the storied movie franchise.

Bryzgalov needs to continue his hot streak if the Flyers will be competitive. Last year, the Boston Bruins also had injuries galorebut they had Tim Thomas.

Granted Thomas is better than Bryzgalov but "Bryz" can play at that level. He's been stellar in net, and if the Flyers are to continue dominating the Eastern Conference, Bryzgalov must continue being their "Knight in Tiger Painted Armor."


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