April 19, 2012

Time to shine, $51 million man.

In the wee hours that followed Game 2, I wrote that this Philadelphia Flyers/Pittsburgh Penguins series was "all about Bryz."

And in the wake of Game 4, this is more true than ever.

Ilya Bryzgalov was awful on Wednesday night. It's easy to forget that the Flyers had a 3-2 lead in the first period because of how fast Bryz gave it away. Five goals on 18 shots, especially in the playoffs, is the definition of pitiful.

But the Flyers still need him, because Sergei Bobrovsky was no better (five goals on 18 shots in his own right) and because this team will go as far as the goalie can take them.

He'll start Game 5. Hell, barring another epic collapse, he'll start Game 6.

He's their $51 million man, the guy who set the team's all-time shutout streak record earlier this year.

And he's as talented as he is mercurial, as skilled at tending goal as he is at getting in his own way.

Bryz was seemingly made of solid wood last night (and not in a good way), letting fat rebounds bounce off his rigid body and moving painfully slow from post to post.

Is his injured foot still bothering him? Or was it just a case of wilting under the pressure?

Doesn't matter. No one is happy that Bryz (and, to be fair, the rest of his team) came up incredibly small in a potential elimination game for Pittsburgh.

But there are three games left to make it right. The Flyers are 2-0 at Consol Energy Center in the playoffs and 4-0 there (minus the irrelevant last game of the season) in 2012.

This could all still end up being a funny footnote on the way to a Stanley Cup run.

But the defensemen have to play better (and probably without Nick Grossmann, for at least a game). The forwards need to backcheck and play some kind of defense themselves.

And, for once in this series, Bryz needs to put this team on his back. He made some sterling saves in Game 2, but now a superhuman effort is needed.

The Penguins are a dynamic offensive team, and the pressure in this series has started to shift. Easiest way to rise above that? A knockout game from your superstar goalie.

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