When the Philadelphia Flyers
traded for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov
and signed him to a nine-year contract this past summer, the common view was the team had solved its longstanding goaltending issue.
With two months until the start of the postseason, their situation in net looks no more settled than it did last spring, when they needed three starting goaltenders to beat the Buffalo Sabres
in the first round of the playoffs.
Bryzgalov allowed three goals on 13 shots and was pulled late in the second period Saturday, while his replacement, Sergei Bobrovsky
, allowed three goals on 17 shots as the Flyers suffered a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh that left them in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but with the same number of points as the fifth-place Penguins -- they're ahead because they have five more non-shootout wins.
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Philadelphia is just 2-5-1 in its last eight games and has allowed three or more goals six times in that span.
Bryzgalov was especially frustrated by Saturday's game, allowing two shorthanded goals in a 1:43 span, allowing a 2-1 Flyers lead to become a 3-2 deficit.
He's now 20-11-6 in 40 games. His 2.79 goals-against average is 32nd among 46 goalies to play at least 21 games, while his .900 save percentage is fifth-worst in the League -- the same as his goaltending partner, Bobrovsky.
"I don't know," Bryzgalov said when asked what the most frustrating part of Saturday's game was. "It's tough to say. It was a strange game. I can't say definitely exactly what was the reason. So many things in my head."
Bryzgalov might have been confused, but the crowd at Wells Fargo Center had no trouble expressing its feelings about Bryzgalov. His removal at 16:57 of the second period -- after Matt Cooke
's goal while Pittsburgh was down two men -- was met with a chorus of boos and cheers.
"It's an easy life when you can blame one guy," Bryzgalov said. "It's a bad goalie, the goalie's mistake. It's easy to find scapegoat when you point to one guy and say we always losing because we have a bad goalie. But I think it's the wrong philosophy. … I was frustrated with my game today. I know I've got to be better. I will continue to work on this … I'll try to find peace in my soul to play in this city."
Bobrovsky is 12-8-1 in 24 games, with a 2.99 GAA and that .900 save percentage. He couldn't keep the Flyers in the game after Eric Wellwood
's late second-period goal tied it up, allowing Dustin Jeffrey
's go-ahead goal just 37 seconds into the third period.
Laviolette refused to blame his netminders after the game, but did say they needed to be better.
"I think everybody is frustrated right now with the loss to Pittsburgh and I think that we can be better in a lot of different areas," he said, "and (goaltending) certainly is one of them."
Teammates were quick to support their pair of masked men.
"I know (fans) pay their money to see the team, but you win as a team and you lose as a team," forward James van Riemsdyk
said. "You can't ever pinpoint it on one guy and we know those guys are working hard back there so we're going to have to support them a little bit better and figure it out. It's not just one guy -- it's all 20 of us that have to turn this thing around."
Added center Claude Giroux
: "I think when we win, you guys (the media) like to give the credit to the players and when we lose you like to give the credit to the goalies. We're behind our two goalies and we have confidence in them. Bad goals are going to happen, but they're two good goalies and we know we have to be better in front of them. It was 3-3 going into the third, we have to find a way to get some goals to win and it didn't happen. It's not just about Bryz, it's about the team. A lot of pressure is put on Bryz and it shouldn't be like that. I think he's a good goalie. We're behind him and I think we just have to go forward from here."
Bryzgalov said he appreciates the support.
"It's nice to hear from your teammates that they have faith in us, feel the support," he said. "Like I said before, it's the easiest thing to point at one guy and say we lose because of a goalie or someone else. It's a team game. Everybody on the ice. Maybe next night the goalie can steal the game. What are you going to say?"
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK