Earlier this season Ilya Bryzgalov lamented being “lost in the woods.” The Philadelphia Flyers goaltender couldn’t find his game or his confidence, a big problem for someone given a nine-year, $51 million contract and the pressure that comes with it.
But in recent weeks, coach Peter Laviolette gave Bryzgalov more consistent playing time, and he was starting to look sharper. Sunday’s 1-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals was a culmination of his rounding into form.
“I think we played well. Stop worry about me guys. Seriously,” Bryzgalov said, deflecting praise after making 34 saves. “I think it was an outstanding team effort. As you can see, guys sacrificed themselves blocking shots, battle in front of the net and around the board. They did everything the coach asked and whatever we need for the win.”
Bryzgalov didn’t have to make a boatload of saves on Grade-A chances, but when the Caps did get the puck into prime areas, he was there to calmly nudge it aside. There wasn’t much panic in his crease.
“It seemed tonight he was probably most in control,” Laviolette said. “But my answer prior to this had been yeah, it seems like he’s really starting to feel comfortable. But tonight was the most comfortable.”
Asked about his recent play, Bryzgalov again didn’t want to talk much about himself.
“Like I said before guys, stop worrying about me,” he said.
“On the nights where offensively maybe you don’t quite have it, you’re not quite there or the other team is playing good defensively … you need your goaltender to save you, and he did that on more than one occasion tonight,” Flyers center Danny Briere said. “It was good to see.”