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Ilya Bryzgalov must play better for the Flyers to make deep playoff run

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Philadelphia is the only sports town in America where one minute the sky’s the limit, and the next minute the sky is falling.Photo: Getty Images

As 7:30 approached on Wednesday night and the Flyers were on the verge of sweeping the hated Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the NHL Playoffs, the only thing Flyers fans were worried about was the orange and black’s opponent after they advanced to the second round.

Less than three hours later, excitement has turned into doubt, the Flyers suffered their worst home playoff loss in their history, and a whole slew of questions have arisen in regards to this team’s true potential moving forward in the playoffs.

Before we go any further, let me just say a few things:

1. I still believe the Flyers will advance to the next round.

2. Although to a much lesser degree, I was planning on writing a similar article before Wednesday night’s Game 4 meltdown.

Despite the Flyers taking a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Penguins, the play of Ilya Bryzgalov the entire series has been less than spectacular. Going into Game 4, ‘Bryz’ has allowed 12 goals. Now yes, sometimes a series is not a true depiction of the actual talent in front of the net. For example, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist folded against Ottawa Wednesday night as the Senators evened the series at 2-2. Through the first three games of their respective series however, Lundqvist, as well as Boston’s Tim (I don’t like Barack Obama) Thomas, have allowed only five goals each. It’s more the exception than the rule where those two let in charity goals. If the Flyers were to meet either team down the line, Bryzgalov would have to play a near perfect game. This is something he is more than capable of, but the question is whether which Bryz will show up.

If Bryzgalov hadn’t had such mental stretches of futility throughout the season, I wouldn’t think there would be a cause for concern. However, there is always that chance that the Flyers’ goalie will become ‘Evil Bryz’ again. In a sense of deja vu to the fullest, Peter Laviolette removed Bryzgalov after surrendering the fifth goal of the game and replaced him with Sergei Bobrovsky, who surrendered the last half of the Penguins’ touchdown combined with a field goal. If Laviolette has to play musical goaltenders again like he did in last year’s playoffs, morale will be shot, more confidence will be lost by Bryzgalov, and this ride could end a lot sooner than anyone expected.

Of course, the defense wasn't great by any means. And to top things off, defensemen Nicklas Grossman is day to day with an upper body injury (ie: concussion?) Man, what is with our defensemen and injuries?!!

As I mentioned earlier, the Flyers still have a 3-1 lead in the series, but we’re thinking more long term with this team.

For extended coverage and an excellent breakdown, you can read Rob Giannone’s article by clicking on the highlighted link to our partnering site Buzz On Broad!

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: Getty Images