Ilya Bryzgalov was standing in the visitors locker room at the decrepit Nassau Coliseum with his eyes closed.
He was trying to answer a question, but he couldn’t keep his eyes open.
“I am so tired, I don’t even remember, to tell you the truth,” Bryzgalov said.
That was 11 days ago. Bryzgalov, 31, has made 6 starts since then.
Bryzgalov is going to need a day off sooner or later. He has started 18 of the Flyers’ last 19 games. And why not? Bryzgalov is a workhorse. He’s never made less than 64 appearances in each of his last three seasons.
Bryzgalov has now made 56 appearances for the Flyers - 54 starts and 2 nights in relief - with 7 games to play. He is on a serious roll right now, having allowed two or fewer goals in 11 consecutive games, making him the first Flyers goaltender to do that since Bernie Parent in 1974-75.
In fact, Bryzgalov had a strong chance to be named one of the NHL’s Stars of the Week for the third straight week when the league announced it on Monday.
Therein lies Peter Laviolette’s new predicament.
How do you give Bryzgalov a break without taking him out of his rhythm? There is no hotter goaltender in the NHL right now. He is 10-1-1 in the month of March with a 1.22 GAA and a .956 save percentage.
This is a predicament no Flyers coach has needed to ponder for, uh, a long time. Since 2003-04, the Flyers' goaltenders have been nearly interchangeable.
Bryzgalov will need a rest at some point. That is a fact. But when? On Monday night against Tampa Bay will be Bryzgalov's 19th start in 20 games.
Last year, when Bryzgalov and the Coyotes were swept in four straight in the first round against Detroit, the general belief was that Bryzgalov was tired after a grueling regular season. He played 68 games for Phoenix last season. When the Flyers signed him, both Paul Holmgren and Laviolette acknowledged that they wanted Bryzgalov to play the bulk of the games but they also wanted to “manage” his workload.
Since Feb. 1, Bryzgalov has played in 22 games. He played 29 out of the Coyotes’ 31 games after Feb. 1 last year, before claiming to be burnt out. There are 7 games left in the Flyers’ season.
It is tough to say how Bryzgalov is feeling at this point in the season. He won’t answer questions about himself - and rightfully so. You would have to think this every-other-night grind in March would wear on him a bit. Then again, he could be feeling fresh. But that moment on Long Island made me think.
The most logical option would be to sit Bryzgalov on Saturday against Ottawa, allowing him to start in Sunday’s back-to-back showdown in Pittsburgh. Or, have Bryzgalov play Saturday against Ottawa and start Sergei Bobrovsky in Pittsburgh, where he is unbeaten (4-0-0) in Consol Energy Center.
Another option would be to sit Bryzgalov on Thursday in Toronto and - coupled with the extra day off in between games after Tampa Bay - have him play the remaining 5 straight before he gets at least a 4-day respite before the playoffs start.
It’s a tough call.
But it makes sense not only to get Bryzgalov a night or two off not only for his own sake, but it also for Bobrovsky to knock the rust off. You know, just in case. Bobrovsky has made just one start since Feb. 11.
With a week or so left in the baseball season, you always hear about a manager opting to setup his rotation so it is just right for the postseason. This is Laviolette’s chance. While Bryzgalov and the Flyers need to be clicking on all cylinders, they also have to be properly rested in both mind and body.
"We have given him days off in practice here and there," Laviolette said at Monday's morning skate. "I think you will see 'Bob' in there soon enough."
Tonight 3/26 - vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday 3/29 - at Toronto, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 3/31 - vs. Ottawa, 1:00 p.m.
Sunday 4/1 - at Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday 4/3 - vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.
Thursday 4/5 - vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday 4/7 - at Pittsburgh, 4:00 p.m.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers