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Tocchet lauds Bryzgalov for play this season

by Dan Rosen

LAS VEGAS -- Ex-Flyers forward Rick Tocchet sees holes in his former team both in the back and up front, but he also thinks the one area in most doubt heading into the season could be its most stable.

Tocchet, who serves as an analyst on CSN Philadelphia, appreciates the way Ilya Bryzgalov is both playing and acting now after a rocky first-season in Philadelphia.

Bryzgalov is 2-3 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in five starts this season.

"They've played him in all but one game so far and he's played well for them, and that's a key for the whole city, the fans and the management to think they have the goalie they have paid for," Tocchet told Monday from the 11th annual Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. "He's played well for them so far."

Tocchet did not like how Bryzgalov handled his first season in Philadelphia.

"I don't know if he was prepared for that Philly market," he said.

Tocchet called Bryzgalov "a little goofy," but more to the point he didn't like his antics on the ice or his approach in the media.

"After a goal he'd look at a defenseman," Tocchet said. "He'll say some stuff that sometimes leads you to think he's throwing his teammates under the bus. I don't think he does it maliciously; he just doesn't realize sometimes."

When you add in the fact that Bryzgalov struggled last season after signing a nine-year, $51 million deal in the summer of 2011, Tocchet certainly understands why the Flyer fans rode him as hard as they did and why they still may not trust him.

"Listen, the Flyer fans are impatient with the goaltenders," he said. "Other fans, they may give him a bad game here and there, but with Philly, the way things have gone with the goalie situation there, they have a short leash. And with the aloofness that he displayed, him saying some stuff like, 'What is Flyers' hockey?' It was amazing that he said that and people take offense to it.

"This year he's come in a little bit different with a more mature attitude."

So, the question Tocchet has about the Flyers isn't so much in goal, it's about the guys playing in front of Bryzgalov.

"I tell you what, going into the season to me their weakness is they don't have that defenseman who could get 50-60 points [in a typical 82-game season]," Tocchet said. "Kimmo Timonen is probably the closest, but he's an older guy. I love him, but he's getting a little long in the tooth. Can he still play 25 minutes? That's the question mark.

"That's the one element that I think of," he continued. "I've called their defensemen serviceable. They're bigger, a little slow-footed, but that doesn't mean they can't win. They just can't play the up-tempo, run-and-gun style that they love to play with that defense."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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