Ilya Bryzgalov struggled all season trying to be the elite goaltender that the Philadelphia Flyers were expecting. Now that the playoffs are underway, it has become clear that Bryzgalov’s struggles have prepared the Flyers for the playoffs.
Bryzgalov had some good moments during the regular season and more than a few bad moments. The Flyers have seen how good he can be, but more importantly, they have adjusted to playing well when he is not at his best.
Teams with top-level goaltenders become accustomed to low-scoring games and rarely have to open up the scoring.
Looking at the Nashville Predators in the second round, it is obvious how much they rely on their goaltender.
Pekka Rinne had a rough start to the Predators' second-round matchup against the Coyotes. Rinne is not the only reason that the Predators have fallen behind, but the Predators situation shows how a team that is used to low-scoring matchups has difficulty finding the ammo for a high-scoring shootout.
The Flyers have rarely had low-scoring games this season. During Bryzgalov’s struggles, it was common for him to give up four goals on any given night.
To win with Bryzgalov, the Flyers developed an offense that can overcome almost any deficit.
When a team jumps out to an early lead or Bryzgalov lets in a soft goal, the Flyers are not phased. At this point in the season, it seems like the Flyers cannot be rattled by an opponent’s offence.
The Flyers have scoring depth, which makes every line a threat. The team is also filled with veteran players who know how to come back in a game and rookie players whose enthusiasm makes them think they are never out of a game.
If Bryzgalov can elevate his game to an elite level, the Flyers will become a scary matchup for any team in the playoffs.
And, if Bryzgalov cannot find that extra gear, the Flyers will be just fine.