Bobrovsky, Boucher… Bryzgalov?

After another season of goaltending roulette, do the Flyers need to sign a legitimate No. 1 goaltender this summer?  The answer, more true now than ever, is yes.

A second-round sweep against Boston is not what anyone had in mind for the 2011 season.  Obviously, goaltending is only one issue that plagued the Flyers in recent weeks but this has been a long time coming for Philadelphia.

Brian Boucher’s two-year deal is up and Sergei Bobrovsky only has one year of NHL experience to his name.  The potential is there for the young Russian “Bob” to bloom into a No. 1, but for now the Flyers need to look elsewhere.  Two prominent netminders in the free agent pool are Tomas Vokoun, who spent the 2010-11 campaign in Florida, and Ilya Bryzgalov, the former Ducks draft pick who has used his 6’3 size to stop pucks on a regular basis for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Vokoun posted a save percentage north of .920 in three straight seasons with the Panthers and collected 19 shutouts during that time frame.  He also has a career goals against average of 2.56 and is no doubt capable of being the starting goaltender for a team next season, despite turning 35 years old this summer.  Would I love to see Vokoun donning an orange sweater next season? Absolutely.  Philly would benefit from any netminder with as much experience as Vokoun, but I feel that there is one better fit for the Flyers’ crease next season: Ilya Bryzgalov.

Ilya Bryzgalov has compiled 15 shutouts over the last two seasons and would be a legitimate No. 1 goaltender for the Flyers. Photo by Kevin Coloton/Icon SMI

Bryzgalov is undoubtedly a No. 1 goaltender in this league and has proven that over his last two seasons with Phoenix.  He turns 31 this summer and could serve as a great mentor for the young Bobrovsky.  “Bryz” would also put to rest any talks about a goaltending controversy in Philadelphia and give the Flyers a chance to win with a proven goalie.  Let’s see how Bryzgalov’s numbers stack up over his past couple of seasons in the desert, shall we?

Shutouts

The Flyers were the only team that did not record a single shutout this season, despite winning 47 games.  How many shutouts did Bryzgalov have in the 2011 season? Eight, not to mention that he had seven in the 09-10 season, so that puts him at an astonishing 15 shutouts over the last two years.  Recording a shutout is not everything but it certainly helps.  The point is the Flyers recorded 106 points this season, the third-highest total in the league, yet had no shutouts to show for it.  To me, that is a sign that the goaltending needs a boost – you want to have a netminder that can win you games in which you only score one or two goals.

Goals against average and save percentage

Bryzgalov has a career goals against average of 2.53 and finished the 10-11 campaign with a GAA of 2.48.  His career-best goals against average came one year earlier, when he won 42 games and amassed a GAA of 2.29 to lead the Coyotes to the playoffs.  His .921 save percentage in 2011 was impressive, especially when you consider that he faced over 2100 shots.  In fact, Bryzgalov has faced over 1900 shots in each of his past three seasons and has posted a save percentage above .920 twice during that span.  Overall, he can be held accountable for making big saves and stopping a lot of pucks.  With defensemen like Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen anchoring the blue line in Philadelphia, this should hold true if the Flyers come calling for “Bryz” this summer.

Win totals and playoff statistics

In four seasons as the starting goaltender for Phoenix, Bryzgalov won at least 26 games each year and has amassed 78 regular season wins over the last two seasons.  When you consider that he has only lost 40 games during that same time span, those 78 wins are extremely impressive.  The Coyotes have been booted out of the playoffs in the first round two years in a row, but don’t put all of the blame on Bryzgalov.  He and the ‘Yotes have had to face Detroit in each of those matchups and the Red Wings are one of those teams that always play their best hockey in the playoffs (see the curent San Jose-Detroit matchup for more on this theory).   In 2009-10, Phoenix forced a seven-game series against the Red Wings but was swept in the 2011 playoffs.  Bryzgalov had a 4.38 goals against average in those four games, but the bright side is that Phoenix made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons due to his spectacular play in net (they hadn’t made the playoffs since 01-02 prior to clinching a berth in 2010).

Verdict

Sign him!  I still believe Bobrovsky is a potential No. 1, but he needs time to develop and Bryzgalov, being a fellow Russian, can certainly help him out.  Bryzgalov has above average stats for a goaltender and his 15 shutouts over the last two seasons really stand out to me.  The Flyers WILL need a legitimate starting goaltender if they want to have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup and Bryzgalov may just be the answer.

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