For the second straight time, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was named the NHL First Star of the Week, and is now the only player to earn the honor in back-to-back weeks this season.
Bryzgalov has been the hottest player in the league during March, which is just what the Flyers needed after the mid-season lull he had; one that left many Flyers fans worried about yet another goaltending fiasco.
Since March 1, the 31-year-old netminder is 8-0-1 with a 1.20 goals-against average, a .960 save percentage and four shutouts. Bryzgalov made four starts last week and allowed just six goals, winning all but one game, a tough 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. He kicked off the week by earning his third straight shutout and then set the Flyers’ franchise record for the longest scoreless streak (249:43) while the team was in Long Island, ending john Vanbiesbrouck’s 13-year mark. He went on to allow two goals soon after setting the record but more importantly Philadelphia earned the win.
Bryzgalov had two strong outings over the weekend, making 31 saves in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day which allowed the Flyers to rally back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a point and force the game to a shootout. The second, against the Pittsburgh Penguins – a team that just got captain Sidney Crosby back and was riding an 11-game winning streak – was a 38 save outing, where again the Flyers rallied from two goals down in the third period but this time won the contest in overtime, thanks to a Scott Hartnell goal with just 0.9 seconds left to play.
With Bryzgalov’s recent success the Flyers have held their ground in the standings and now have the division-leading New York Rangers in their sights. The Rangers had a nice nine point cushion on the orange and black a little over two weeks ago but now that lead has dwindled down to just three points. But the Flyers – who still have one game left against the Rangers – have yet to beat New York this season, losing all five of their previous meetings, two of which were downright embarrassing.
However, those losses came before the Flyers’ $51 million goaltender began to compete on a high level like he did with the Phoenix Coyotes the previous four seasons. A big component of success in the playoffs is a hot goaltender and right now no one is playing better than Bryzgalov but with 10 games left can he keep it up until mid-April?
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