Big change: No fear of Pens

“The only thing I fear is bears - bears in the forest," Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said when asked if he fears the Pens. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Ilya Bryzgalov said it before Game 1 and mostly everyone shrugged him off.

Asked if he fears Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, Bryzgalov responded by saying:

“The only thing I fear is bears - bears in the forest.”

Everyone laughed. The one-liner made headlines, causing Penguins fans to dress up as bears for Games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh.

Mostly, the press corps shrugged it off and chalked it up to just another Bryzgalov joke, more in the vein of a “humangous big universe” or how his husky resembles a “beautiful girl” with her blue eyes.

Turns out, there may be something to what Bryzgalov was saying.

This just in: There is no part of the Flyers that fears the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sure, it may seem brazen to say that while the Flyers have a 3-0 stranglehold on their best-of-seven series with their fiercest rival, but it may actually be a good way to explain the Flyers’ on-ice magic in the first round.

In years past, especially when these two teams met in the playoffs consecutively in 2008 and 2009, there was an aura about the Penguins. You could feel it in their locker room. Every time those two players were on the ice, the Flyers were just waiting for something bad to happen.

A Pittsburgh columnist actually wrote a story previewing this series with the headline: "Flyers crumble when Crosby's at his best." It was true. Emphasis on the was.

Now, it’s not that the Flyers don’t respect the Penguins. It’s just that they feel like they’re on par with Pittsburgh instead of playing from behind before they even step on the ice.

“I think it’s the fact that we believe we have just as many stars on our team,” Danny Briere said. “I don’t think we care that people are talking about us, or not, at this point.”

The Penguins did not win the Atlantic division. They finished with just five more points than the Flyers in the regular season. Yet, the Penguins were the consensus favorite to not only romp the Flyers but win the whole shebang. 

The Flyers are now 11-3-1 against Pittsburgh over the last two seasons.

Claude Giroux said the Flyers didn’t pay too much attention to Pittsburgh’s high-and-mighty status. They just knew they wanted to knock the Penguins off that perch.

“Everybody was picking Pittsburgh going into the first round. I don’t think guys looked at it a lot, but once in a while you took a look at it on TV, and it was more of a motivation for us to win and prove everyone wrong.”

They’re one win away from doing just that.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers