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Flyers GM on Bryzgalov: “He has to get better”

Ilya Bryzgalov

From an entertainment standpoint, Ilya Bryzgalov’s recent performances have been very good.

But from a hockey standpoint? Not so much, says Paul Holmgren. The Flyers GM spoke candidly about his goaltender’s struggles today with CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio.

“He has to get better, for sure,” he said during Flyers practice.“He obviously has to play better. Ilya knows the same thing.”

It’s not surprising that Holmgren -- the man behind the nine-year, $51 million deal that brought Bryzgalov to Philly -- is getting a little antsy. He’s seen flashes of the Vezina-nominated backstopper that often carried the Phoenix Coyotes, but none of the consistency. Last season, Bryzgalov posted a 2.29 GAA and .921 save percentage; this season, those are up (and down) to 3.01 and .890.

There are plenty of theories as to why Bryzgalov’s struggled -- new city, different surroundings, change in system -- but one that’s getting play lately is the “too much offense” theory. Philly is the NHL’s third-highest scoring team and doesn’t give up many shots on goal, so the thought is Bryzgalov’s focus wanes because he’s not being peppered with pucks and forced to steal games.

It’s something Panaccio asked Holmgren about.

“There’s something here with a new team, a new group of teammates, a different style here,” Holmgren said. “He certainly doesn’t get as many shots. Last night [a 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay], I don’t know what the scoring chances were, but I don’t think they had that many scoring chances. In the end they got five goals.”

As for Bryz...he’s not ‘lost in the woods’ this time, but he’s not exactly rife with answers, either.

“Hoping the bounces start turning my way and not against us, because every game we have two goals and bad bounces,” he said. “Some day it has to stop probably. And I have a better game.”