Bryzgalov's act wearing thin on Flyers

Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo takes a shot on goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov during practice at Citizens...

Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo takes a shot on goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov during practice at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Penn., Jan. 1, 2012. (TIM SHAFFER/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:59 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - At the end of a rambling, sometimes characteristically quirky and always entertaining dialogue Sunday, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov came to the truth.

It's all pretty much been a lie. All that mugging for the HBO 24/7 cameras has been an act.

"I never let anyone get inside of my head. If you want to be honest, a serious question? I always lie to you guys," said Bryzgalov, who surprisingly made the announcement he won't start Monday's Winter Classic against the New York Rangers at Citizen Bank Park, ticking off Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.

It was yet another off-the-wall moment for the goaltender, who has been one of the stars of the HBO documentary in the run-up to the NHL's showcase regular-season event.

OK, so if he's always lying, when he says he's lying is he really telling the truth?

"You'll never find out my real feelings," he said. "We're talking now probably half an hour, right, and what you got from this conversation? Basically, nothing, right? That's how it's supposed to be probably. People doesn't care how I feel. They want a show. They want the entertainment. You remember the Rome, right? The antique Rome? The Roman Empire? What they want? Gladiators and bread. It's all they want.

"The crowd doesn't change. They still think the same. It's going to be three hundred years ago. In the future it going to be the same. It's all the crowd needs. I think life is a show."

And so it was again Sunday.

"I have great news and I have even better news," said Bryzgalov in the Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse, which has been converted to the Flyers dressing room, as he met with the media. "OK, great news is I'm not playing tomorrow night and better news is we have a chance to win the game tomorrow night."

As far as his plans for spending the day outdoors at the end of the Flyers bench (if, indeed, he isn't playing and it isn't all just more of Bryzgalov's playing for the cameras): "Make sure I'm not forget in the morning my Thermos with some nice tea and enjoy the bench," he said.

What kind of tea?

"It's going to be Earl Grey, probably. Lemon. Lots of sugar, sweet."

Unlike the way things have been going for Bryzgalov lately. He's 0-3 in his last three games, giving up 16 goals on 87 shots.

Sergei Bobrovsky is 3-0, giving up six goals on 88 shots.

It's not the way Bryzgalov or the Flyers saw things going when they signed him to a nine-year, $51-millon contract in the off-season.

Is the weight of that deal affecting Bryzgalov?

"Yeah, maybe. I wish I got $450,000 salary for right now," he said. "'What do you want from me? I play for the gas (money).'"

When asked what was wrong with his game right now, Bryzgalov said: "Too much thinking."

A couple of Flyers players rolled their eyes when asked about Bryzgalov and the way he handled the news of his not starting Sunday. Laviolette, as per his custom, refused to name his starter (Bryzgalov said he was told by Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese he was not starting). Laviolette's displeasure with Bryzgalov prematurely revealing who would start was clearly evident.

Bryzgalov's act is wearing thin with the organization. He has already been told to stop beating himself up in the media after his famous meltdown (about being lost in the woods) after a game against the Winnipeg Jets.

It was interesting that when players spoke on the record, they mentioned how hard Bobrovsky works.

"Obviously, Bob deserves it," said NHL leading scorer Claude Giroux. "He's been playing well and since the start of the season he's been working hard and I think the guys can see how hard he works."

"Bryz has had a tough couple of games. Bob has been pretty steady the whole year," said Flyers winger Scott Hartnell. "I think it might be good for Bryz to get a wakeup call, work on some things, get back to being the goalie that he can be."

Bryzgalov said it hurt not to be starting Monday in such a high-profile game.

"Oh, yeah, that's true. (The) only one reason. If it's probably going to be another game, maybe I'm not going to be frustrated like that," he said. "I'm a human. I'm not made from the steel."

While what's fact and what's just fun for Bryzgalov is a moving target, the truth of his situation is this: when a guy is playing well and winning, off-the-wall behaviour like Bryzgalov's is charmingly quirky.

When he's struggling and the team is losing, he's a loose, though entertaining, cannon and a distraction.

That's the way it is in this show.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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