Bryzgalov sounds like the right man for the job

Ilya Bryzgalov. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

Ilya Bryzgalov. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

MICHAEL RUSHTON, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - If there's anyone who isn't convinced that goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is the missing piece that the Philadelphia Flyers need to finally win another Stanley Cup championship, five minutes alone with the outspoken Russian may be enough to get the job done.

Bryzgalov said all the right things in a conference call from his home country on Monday, praising "the idea and philosophy" of the club while repeating he wants to be the guy that leads the Flyers to their first title since 1975.

Philadelphia has always been known as a sort of pressure-cooker, with high expectations for each and everyone of its teams. The Flyers have been arguably the most consistent of the four major sports franchises in putting a solid quality of product on the ice, but it hasn't translated into championship parades.

Bryzgalov is ready to change that and it doesn't look like he'll shy away from shouldering the responsibility. Flyers fans have screamed from atop William Penn's hat for goaltending and the 31-year-old wants to be the answer to those requests.

"I want to be and I want to be the guy who can carry this team," Bryzgalov said. "I don't know what else to say. I want to help this team win the Stanley Cup because people in Philadelphia and the organization have waited long enough."

Expectations will certainly be high for Bryzgalov, who cost the Flyers $51 million over nine years to obtain his services in net. His high price also helped lead to the departure of captain Mike Richards and former 40-goal scorer Jeff Carter, who were both traded on the day Bryzgalov officially signed his deal.

"Pressure -- we have to deal with the pressure every way and every day in our lives, hockey, everywhere," Bryzgalov said.

If confidence was a deciding factor in what the Flyers were looking for in a goaltender, then Bryzgalov is by far the best choice the team could have made. While some questioned Richards and Carter's impact in the locker room, Bryzgalov was the start of a culture change for the team by general manager Paul Holmgren.

"He says what's on his mind, there is no question about it," Holmgren said. "And he's kind of backed it up with his play the last couple years in Phoenix. We view him as one of the top goalies in the league. That's the reason why we did what we did and why we signed him. We're excited about our future with Ilya."

Still, the addition of Bryzgalov doesn't make the Flyers instant favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Though the former second-round pick has made quite a name for himself since being claimed off waivers from the Ducks by the Coyotes, his final impression with the Phoenix franchise was a four-game sweep at the hands of the Red Wings in last season's playoffs in which he allowed 17 goals while posting a 4.36 goals-against average and .879 save percentage.

That came just one year after another first-round exit, a seven-game series with Detroit that featured a 3.44 GAA.

Bryzgalov started 69 and 68 games, respectively, for the Coyotes prior to those playoff series and has won 78 regular-season contests in that span. His seven shutouts a season ago were seven more than the Flyers posted in all of 2010-11, but he did admit that fatigue may have been an issue and led to a few "once in a while mistakes."

"Definitely I can play better. Last year I think with Detroit, in a seven-game series, I think we had good chances but in Game 7 we just ran out of gas," he said. "This year's playoff series we came in already running out of gas because we had a lot of injuries in the two-month race for the playoff spot. It was crazy in the West and we had lots of injuries and players were hurt. I thought I should have played better, but maybe I was tired too."

Does that mean Bryzgalov would like a reduced workload in Philadelphia, something that may be manageable given that current backstop (and fellow Russian) Sergei Bobrovsky made 52 starts as a rookie in 2010-11.

"It depends on how much the team needs me. If the team needs me 82 games I'll play 82 games. If the team needs me 60 games I'll play 60 games," commented Bryzgalov. "It's the coach's decision and management's decision. We'll see how much we go through the whole season. It's not a short season, 82 games, we'll see. It depends."

Bryzgalov is certainly talking the talk so far, but if he is going to win over the residents of the City of Brotherly Love, he'll need to do more than spout off some candid remarks before and after games.

One of the proudest moments in Philadelphia hockey history came in 1976, when the Broad Street Bullies put a hurting on the Central Red Army team. Fate, though, is a funny thing and the city is now invested in a talented Russian to lead it back to glory.


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