In what seemed more like a comedy routine than an impromptu news conference in the Flyers’ locker room at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, Ilya Bryzgalov revealed that backup Sergei Bobrovsky would be the team’s starting goalie in Monday’s Winter Classic against the New York Rangers.
“I have great news and even better news,” said Bryzgalov, who has lost four straight and struggled through most of the season. “Great news: I’m not playing (Monday). And good news: We have a chance to win the game.”
He was mocking himself for his poor play. Signed to a nine-year $51 million contract before the season, he has a 3.01 goals against average and .890 save percentage. In his last four games, he has a 4.58 GAA.
"It's not the end of the universe," Bryzgalov said.
Bobrovsky has been on a hot streak. In his last eight games, he is 5-1 with two no-decisions and a 1.55 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
While saying they still have confidence in Bryzgalov, virtually everyone in the Flyers’ locker room seemed pleased Bobrovsky was getting the nod.
“Bryz has maybe had a tough couple games, but Bob has been pretty steady the whole year,” high-scoring winger Scott Hartnell said. “I think it might be good for Bryz to get a wake-up call and work on some things and get back to the goalie he can be _ and that we all know. That’s why Homer (GM Paul Holmgren) signed him. He’s going to be good for us. I have a lot of faith in him. He’s a good man, and a great goalie and he’ll be there for us.”
But not on Monday in the biggest stage of the NHL’s regular season.
“Right now, Bob is playing extremely well and he gets rewarded for that,” center Danny Briere said. “I think we’re making a bigger deal of it than it really is.”
Bobrovsky refused to say he was starting, smiling and saying it was not his place to make an announcement.
“It doesn’t matter who starts because the most important thing is the result,” said the second-year goalie. “It’s a real game. It’s two points on the line, so it’ll be special, but the result is the most important thing.”
Bobrovsky is 8-2-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Playing part-time, he conceded, “is more difficult to be as confident and as prepared because I never know when I’ll start. There’s no rhythm for the preparation.”
Is Monday going to be one the biggest games of his life?
“At this point, EVERY game is the most important game of my career,” he said.
Bryzgalov, meanwhile, was asked about his mindset for the Winter Classic
“Make sure I don’t forget early in the morning my thermos. Put some ice tea in and enjoy the bench,” he deadpanned.
About a half hour after Bryzgalov revealed that Bobrovsky would start, coach Peter Laviolette refused to announce his decision. Laviolette said he hadn’t talked to either goalie yet.
Bryzgalov said he was told of the decision by goalie coach Jeff Reese.
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My two cents: Bravo, Lavy. The coach made the decision on performance - and not on Bryzgalov's nine-year, $51 million deal. That took humungous big guts.
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Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.