Truth is, Bryzgalov can't change

Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is scored on by Jets forward Evander Kane (not shown) at the MTS...

Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is scored on by Jets forward Evander Kane (not shown) at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Feb. 21, 2012. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

EDMONTON - Generally speaking, goaltenders are usually a little bit off centre.

You have to be somewhat eccentric to have pucks fired at you for a living.

But Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov takes it to a new level, making those who cover the game wish there were more players like him around.

“Bryz is who he is, you can’t change that,” said Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. “When he gets in front of the camera, he’s a funny guy, he likes to be funny, he expresses himself.”

It’s the way Bryzgalov expresses himself which keeps journalists coming back.

“He’s fun to be around, he provides a lot of entertainment,” said Flyers winger Claude Giroux. “He likes to talk, but it gets the guys loosened up and it’s good to have him around.”

Bryzgalov has long amused fans and teammates alike with his unfiltered views on hockey and life.

He’s as straight a shooter as there is in the league, and not one who is big on clichés when it comes to telling people how he feels.

“I don’t know if people like to hear the truth, generally,” Bryzgalov said. “I’ve always been like that. I always speak from my heart and say what I think. Some people may not like that, but I can’t change them and I’m too old to change myself, too. You have to accept me or not accept me. It’s people’s choice and it’s tough to change people.”

Having signed a nine-year, $51-million free agent deal with the Flyers this summer, it has taken the City of Brotherly Love time to warm up to the charismatic Russian.

Bryzgalov, 31, has not been the standout many expected him to be since heading over from the Phoenix Coyotes, where he rejuvenated his career.

Instead, Bryzgalov has been inconsistent, admitting earlier this season he had completely lost his confidence.

“I’ve had ups and downs, but it’s nothing that I didn’t expect,” Bryzgalov said. “It’s a little bit hard, but I have to battle through. I have to cut down some mistakes, simple and stupid mistakes I make on the ice.

“There are some pucks that should never go in which, if I made the save, would bring my save percentage up and my goals against average down. It would probably get me more confidence in what I do on the ice. But it is what it is, and we have 23, 24 games left before the regular season is over, and I think it’s plenty of time to fix that.”

Heading into Thursday’s encounter with the Oilers, Bryzgalov has a 2.82 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.

The Flyers are hoping he can improve on those numbers heading into what they hope to be a long playoff run.

“The bottom line is going to be the playoffs,” Bryzgalov said. “If I can play at the level that I can in the playoffs, and we have success in the playoffs, I don’t think anybody will care what happened in the past and during the regular season.

“Everyone is just going to laugh and say ‘Who cares?’ You’re going to be judged by what you do in the playoffs.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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