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Philadelphia Flyers to Learn If Their Choice was the Right One: Fan’s Take
Trading Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets, on the same June day no less, were the most dramatic moves. However, their most important decisions involved obtaining the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes and then contractually securing his roster spot for an indefinite future.
Bryzgalov was a backup on the Anaheim Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup winning team. He appeared in five playoff games that spring, as Jean-Sebastien Giguere's understudy. His 3-1 record, .922 save percentage and 2.25 GAA marks were good, but didn't match his prior season's performance.
During the last season (2005-06) that the Ducks were still known as Mighty, Bryzgalov was their main playoff goaltender. The 24-year-old was performing in his first-ever professional postseason when he played in eleven games, posted a 6-4 record and had National Hockey League-leading marks that included a .944 save percentage, a 1.46 GAA and three shutouts.
Mixed coyote bag
After being released by the Ducks, Bryzgalov was claimed by the Coyotes in November 2007 and became the team's starting goaltender.
In 2010, the Coyotes qualified for the playoffs for first time during the Russian native's stay in Phoenix. He started all seven games against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals loss and posted a .906 save percentage and a 3.44 GAA.
In 2011, the Coyotes faced the Red Wings in an opening round rematch and were swept in four games. Bryzgalov once again played in every game, but regressed statistically to an .879 save percentage and a 4.36 GAA.
While financial considerations were clearly a main factor in Phoenix choosing to move in a different goaltending direction, that type of postseason performance must have helped to create a philosophy change.
Bryzgalov's most recently brilliant crease creation happened last month, when he set the Flyers all-time record for consecutive scoreless minutes (249 minutes and 43 seconds). Like a variety of goaltenders in the League, Philadelphia's main netminder displayed an ability to go on a roll.
With memories of this season's HBO 24/7 'era' still fresh, no one seemed to mind what 'Bryz' had said while he was busy preventing every imaginable puck from crossing the goal line.
Reasonably measuring success
One reasonable way to measure Bryzgalov's playoff success this spring will simply be to see how well everyone performs, regardless of how many games the Flyers actually win.
If he continues to offer a steady effort, Philadelphia will have a chance to win consistently. If that scenario plays out, the Flyers goaltending choice will appear to have been the right one.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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