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Follow Me on TwitterRob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at rsoria@ourhometown.ca
Bryzgalov not the only one to blame for the Philadelphia Flyers elimination
Rob Soria
OurHometown.ca

Bryzgalov not the only one to blame for the Philadelphia Flyers elimination
For one to say that Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't lived up to expectations since signing a hefty nine year $51 million contract this past off season, would be putting it mildly.That being said, their second round dismissal can not solely be placed on the shoulders of their enigmatic goaltender.
PHOTO CREDIT - PhiladelphiaFlyers.com

Edmonton - May 9, 2012 - For one to say that Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't lived up to expectations since signing a hefty nine year $51 million contract this past off season, would be putting it mildly. The idea was for the former Phoenix Coyote puck stopper to help lead the Flyers to the promise land, after years of playoff failures. With the Flyers being easily bounced from this year's Stanley Cup playoffs by the New Jersey Devils, year one of the "Bryzgalov Experiment" would have to be deemed a failure. That being said, their second round dismissal can not solely be placed on the shoulders of their enigmatic goaltender.

Many felt the Flyers had little left in the tank, after putting everything they had into beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, in what was one of the most entertaining first round playoffs battles in decades. While there is definitely some legitimacy to that point, the fact that Philadelphia were unable to play a solid team game and could not score with any sort of consistency, is what ultimately led to their undoing.

Much of the blame for the loss has been heaped onto Bryzgalov, which is a bit of a stretch. While he was far from stellar in the series, (1-4, 3.02 GAA, .902 SV%), the former Vezina Trophy finalist received very little support. Defensively, the Flyers did not look good heading into the playoffs and if not for a dreadful performance from Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, Philadelphia would have been eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.

Their exhilarating six game series against the Penguins masked many of their flaws, the biggest weakness being their backend. While they seemingly scored at will against Fleury and the Pens, that would not be the case against the Devils. Much like the Flyers, Pittsburgh's "team game" was non-existent. Against each other, it made for very entertaining hockey but against a team like New Jersey...not so much.

While the Devils are not the same "trap happy" team of years gone by, they are still a fundamentally sound club...something Pittsburgh was not. Missing the likes of Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros from their blueline were massive holes heading into the playoffs that simply could not be filled long term and that came to light against a discipline New Jersey side.

As dominant as Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and the rest of the Flyers were in the opening round, they were missing in action over the final four games against Jersey. Giroux had two points in game four but was suspended for game five because of a dangerous head shot. After a two goal performance in game one, Briere scored all of one goal the rest of the way. While other first round standouts Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr contributed next to nothing. Compare that to the seven points in four games that Ilya Kovalchuk put on the board and the four and five points collected by the likes of Adam Henrique, Dainius Zubrus and Zach Parise and you see the difference. In order to win in the playoffs, teams need their best players to be their best players and they were not for the Flyers.

In the end, Martin Brodeur was a little better then Bryzgalov but the future Hall of Famer did not steal a single solitary game in this series. Philadelphia never cracked the thirty shot barrier after game one...which was the game they won. When you generate shot totals of 20, 28, 22 and 28 over the final four games of a series, you can almost guarantee yourself being on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

While much was expected from Ilya Bryzgalov when he signed his big deal with Philadelphia, the fact that they will be paying the netminder an average salary of $5.67 million until he is forty years old, does not mean he will be their saviour. The seven year veteran has been and still is, a quality NHL goaltender but like most goalies, his stats will typically look as good as the system his team plays in front of him. A hot goalie can definitely carry or cost his team in a short series but it is usually the performance of the rest of his teammates, that will ultimately determine how successful they are. Which is exactly what happened to the Philadelphia Flyers over the past ten days.


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