Some fans in Philadelphia might not be behind Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
, but he's got at least one invested observer solidly in his corner.
"I like the way he plays," said Hockey Hall of Famer and Flyers goaltending legend Bernie Parent
. "Is there room for improvement? Of course, you never graduate as a goalie, but I really like what I see."
Parent said this Thursday afternoon, prior to seeing Bryzgalov's 25-save performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins
. It was Bryzgalov's fourth straight win and lowered his goals-against average to 2.84.
The solid performance also came 24 hours after one Bryzgalov likely wasn't as proud of -- stopping 20 of 24 shots as the Flyers had to rally from a 3-0 deficit for 5-4 overtime win in Buffalo.
"It's a matter of confidence. The more games you play, you understand your team. The more you (the coach) believe in them (the goalie), the more they (the rest of the team) believe in him, and then you grow as a team." -- Hockey Hall of Famer and Flyers goaltending legend, Bernie Parent
However, in the opinion of coach Peter Laviolette
, it was important to get Bryzgalov right back into the net Thursday, especially against a quality opponent like the Penguins.
"Had maybe it been a different opponent, maybe I would have considered something different," Laviolette said. "We want to get him going, get him playing, get him some games, and it was a big game -- it was for first in the conference tonight."
As a two-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender, Parent fully endorsed that decision.
"It's a matter of confidence," Parent said. "The more games you play, you understand your team. The more you (the coach) believe in them (the goalie), the more they (the rest of the team) believe in him, and then you grow as a team."
Parent said he believes Bryzgalov's growth process is ongoing.
"It takes time for a goalie to adjust to the defensemen," Parent said. "It's not just good enough to stop the shot. You have to see what the left-hand shot does and how the defensemen will play the left-hand shot, and how they play the right-hand shot. It helps you to anticipate and be in the right place at the right time. It takes time to understand that. It takes time to study your defensemen."
That process has been a bit more difficult for Bryzgalov, in his first season with the Flyers after four seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes
, as injuries have caused the Flyers to use 10 different blueliners in their first 27 games, including three rookies.
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Bryzgalov, though, said he already feels pretty comfortable with whoever is in front of him.
"I know pretty much what to expect from every player," he said. "I just have to be better. Sometimes I give up goals that never should go in. You can't blame anyone because that's just my fault. I have to be better in certain situations. That's it."
He certainly was better in the third period of Thursday's game, as the Penguins threw 14 shots on Bryzgalov. He stopped 13 of them, including a couple dandy saves on Evgeni Malkin
late after Malkin's goal in the third had made it a one-goal game.
"I thought he was really steady, especially at the end," Laviolette said. "He shined in the last 10 minutes of the game, last 12 minutes of the game, when it seemed like they were starting to press a little bit and the puck was coming at our net more. I thought he did a good job of staying focused and making the saves we needed him to for us to walk out with the two points."
Bryzgalov said seeing that much rubber is something he enjoys.
"In the game when there's action in your zone, you get warm," Bryzgalov said. "You're there, you're in the game. … You're moving, you're facing shots, you're side-to-side make the saves, recover on the rebound. Your body is in action, blood pumping in your body. You want the shots, you want to battle … it's tough to play for goalies when you don't face a lot of shots."
The more pucks Bryzgalov sees, the better he gets. He's facing an average of 26.5 shots per game, but in the seven games he's seen at least 30 shots, he's 6-1-0.
Two months into the season, his teammates are confident Bryzgalov will make all the saves, no matter how many pucks find their way to his goal.
"He played awesome," Scott Hartnell
said of Bryzgalov following Thursday's game. "The last few games it seems like he's on his angles, if rebounds are there he's getting over quick. That's what you need from a No. 1 goalie and that's why (team chairman Ed) Snider and (GM) Paul Holmgren
signed him. He's looks like a legitimate No. 1."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK