“What I lived through this season I wouldn’t wish to an enemy,” Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov told Russian newspaper Sovetsky Sport this week. “I understand the fans. They paid their money and want the show, but many forget we’re not robots but living people.”
Bryzgalov spoke with the Russian daily on Tuesday, after the favoured Flyers lost the fifth and final game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils.
The enigmatic goalie’s quotes were released on Thursday, the same day that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren delivered his season-end press conference.
“His job is to stop pucks and help us win games,” Holmgren said. “It’s not Comedy Central.”
Bryzgalov was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes in the off-season to remedy Philadelphia’s instability between the pipes. He has eight more years on a nine-year contract that pays him $51 million.
“Did he play as good as I expected this year?” Holmgren asked. “I’d probably say no.”
Bryzgalov posted a 3.46 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage in 11 playoff games, the worst numbers of any netminder who reached the second round. His record was 5-6.
Bryzgalov, a great quote since his quirky personality was revealed on HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic, was the only Flyer who declined to speak to the media on Thursday.
“We have an excellent team,” Bryzgalov says in the Sovetsky Sport piece. “All the guys are good, the management is great. But there is a lot of negativity surrounding the team. You did everything you could on the ice, you go to the locker room and someone yells some nonsense at your back. They’re ready to eat you alive. It’s unpleasant, because we are all people.
“You should understand that I am not speaking out against the fans. Philadelphia has great fans. They are the majority. They are always with the team in difficult times.”
Bryzgalov had his share of difficult times in 2011-12. In October, he allowed five goals on 15 shots against the Winnipeg Jets before being pulled and told the postgame scrum that he was “lost in the woods.” And although “Bryz” was the breakout star of 24/7, he did not get the start in the Winter Classic.
Bryzgalov did, however, enjoy a phenomenal stretch towards the end of the regular season during which he set a franchise record for the longest shutout streak.
“Everyone is talking about me …’Philadelphia won, but Bryz made a mistake again.’ … Guys, who doesn’t make mistakes? People are so concentrated on the negative that they only see the bad in me. But I think that you need to be kinder to each other,” the 31-year-old said.
“I gained invaluable experience. It is difficult to describe with words. It is a psychology, a new view on life.”