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Opponent’s scouting report: Ilya Bryzgalov

Next up in our opponent’s scouting report series is everyone’s favorite Flyer, Ilya Bryzgalov.  Since I’m all about full disclosure, I will admit up front that I have a huge (humungous big) soft spot for Bryz.  On one hand, he does everything in his power to reinforce the stereotype that goalies are completely out of their minds (which isn’t completely true), but on the other hand, he is ridiculously entertaining.  Same criteria as always applies, general style, strengths, weaknesses, and how the Rangers should approach the matchup.

General Style

Bryz is something of a throwback without being much of a throwback.  What I mean by that is he embraces everything about modern goaltending, from the equipment to the save techniques, but completely omits the new generation movement paradigm.   He relies mainly on a his size (6’3”, 208lbs) and his solid positional game to neutralize offenses.  It is very rare that you see him utilize the butterfly slide as a movement vehicle and generally relies on extension and reflexes to stop shots on rebounds or lateral passing.

The perception of this (in contrast to Sergei Bobrovsky, who is one of the most agile goalies in the NHL) has maddened Flyer’s fans since the start of the season.  Since Bryz does not give the appearance of all out effort to stop every shot, it seems like he isn’t really trying, or allowing goals he shouldn’t.  However, the truth is that Bryzgalov puts himself in the best possible position to stop the shot and trusts that the shot will hit him because of this.  When he was slumping earlier in the season, his positioning wasn’t as sharp as it usually is.

Strengths

As I just mentioned, Bryzgalov’s biggest strengths are his size and positioning.  He is a fairly level headed goaltender and doesn’t attack the puck aggressively.  He simply puts equipment in front of the puck.

Bryzgalov is a very competent puck handler.  He is no Smith or Brodeur but he runs laps around Lundqvist or Fleury.  He is also a strong skater, with quick strong shuffles and a solid up and down game. The theme with Bryzgalov’s strengths is that he is a jack of all trades and a master of none. There is nothing in his game that he does at an elite level, but there is nothing he is particularly weak at.

Weaknesses

The biggest weakness is Bryz’s well balanced game is his lack of elite mobility around the net.  Because he is a strong skater with good balance when executing shuffles and butterfly recoveries he can mitigate this to an extent.  However, it makes him more vulnerable to rebounds and deflections.  Lateral passing isn’t as much of a problem as the other two examples because he is usually able to get a strong directional push, but  changing directions gives him more of a problem.

His recent hot streak notwithstanding, he seems to be having trouble adjusting to the goalie graveyard that is Philadelphia.  Because the fan base there hasn’t had a goalie that was embraced by that town in earnest since Ron Hextall, they have given Bryz almost zero margin for error.  The fact that he was miscast as an elite goaltender by his contract hasn’t helped his case when dealing with the fans and media.  He was brought in to be a savior, and that is simply not in his skill set.

How the Rangers should approach the matchup

Exactly how they have been throughout this season.  The Blueshirts have taken advantage of his adjustment to a big market and big expectations by jumping on him early and often.  He hasn’t seemed comfortable at MSG in his two games there this season, and the Rangers know it.

Assuming his hot streak of late is simply a sign that he is settling down and won’t be as easily rattled going forward, the Rangers need a tactical game plan.  My advice would be to make him change directions as much as possible.  When the Ranger’s shooters (especially the point men) are dealing with a low-probability shot, they need to avoid shooting locations that will allow Bryzgalov to control the rebound.  Shots need to be hard and low, forcing bounces and taking advantage of his lack of mobility in scrambles.  Traffic in front never hurts either.

The bottom line is that Bryzgalov is a very talented netminder, but hardly the elite goalie is he being paid to be.  His contract was a function of supply and demand combined with a Philly team that was desperate to cure their goaltending ills.  He is an above-average starter, no doubt, but not one of the most intimidating matchups the Rangers could face on their quest for Lord Stanley this spring.

Up next is the goalie we Ranger’s fans love to hate: Marty Brodeur.

11 Responses to “Opponent’s scouting report: Ilya Bryzgalov”

  1. Walt says:

    This guy is an absolute head case!

    The reason he is on a hot string is that filthadelphia went out and got two big d-men, in an attempt to replace Pronger. They got Grossman, and Kabina, who both have played solid defense for them. As a team they tightened up the D, and in turn this clown is made to look good.

    His history while with the Yotes was terrible. In the play-offs, this guy chokes big time, and will again this year. The flyers haven’t had a great goalie since the death of Pellie Linburg, and they sure as heck don’t with this BOZO!!!!!

    • Dave says:

      Kubina’s hurt.

      But I think it’s just a matter of him getting adjusted. Anaheim/Phoenix don’t compare to Philly.

      • Justin says:

        ‘Cmon Walt, thats a little harsh, don’t you think? He had 3 well above average years with a pretty mediocre Phoenix team, and played well for the Ducks in relied of Giguere in the playoffs a couple years ago.

        I think he is having a difficult time adjusting to the large market as Dave mentioned, but he is too good a goaltender to let 5 goals in every night. Like I said, i don’t expect him to ever put up elite numbers in Philly, but he should be more than enough to get a very good team a Cup at some point.

        • Walt says:

          The man is no Pellie Lindburg, and will never carry this team to the promised land. The pressure of the big city will catch up when they need him most!!!!!

  2. The Suit says:

    Great post, would you classify Bryz as more of a stand up guy then?

    • Justin says:

      Interesting thought Suit, I hadn’t ever really thought about it like that because a pure “stand-up” doesn’t really exist anymore, but in context, I’d say he’s probably pretty close.

  3. Matt J says:

    Bryz is solid and definitely above average. I wouldn’t call him elite but he’s definitely a guy who would start on a lot of teams in the NHL.

    One thing about Bryz is his contract. Forget the fact it’s HUMANGOUS big, he has a NMC. Why would someone give a goalie a NMC? I mean he’ll begin regressing in a few years and if his play completely falls off the map they’re stuck with him till the bitter end. Just seemed like a pretty dumb move to me. The guy’s signed through 2020 and for the Flyers sake he better retire before then.

    • Justin says:

      I agree Matt. The contract is completely out of whack for a 31 year old with his ability level. If they had signed him to say a 4 year, 20 million dollar deal, he’s just another goalie struggling in Philly. It was that megadeal that put him under the microscope to this extent.

      I do feel bad though because he seems like a pretty decent guy/teammate, but he will always be crushed by the weight of that contract.

  4. wwpd says:

    all goalies are not completely out of their minds? ;)

  5. rob sahm says:

    in my opinion bryz will never see the full contract that philly gave him. he will sooner or later be trade bait