Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ilya Bryzgalov Swatch Card

As the Montréal Canadiens kept answering every Philadelphia Flyers' comeback attempt earlier tonight, goaltender Carter Hart showed that one can have a world of talent, it also takes experience or at least a fierce competitive edge to have the poise to take over and shut the door in an elimination game. And he just needed to look at the other end of the ice to see that it doesn't always come, either.

It's even harder to do in Philadelphia, where the netminding heroes of the past who are remembered fondly - Bernard Parent and Pelle Lindbergh - each had their careers cut short, Parent by an eye injury, and Lindbergh of course died in a car crash. We tend to forget that Parent had two sub-par seasons in the three years following his two Stanley Cup-winning years.

And history also now sheds a more favourable light on Ron Hextall, who came into the league by winning the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies but followed that with two sub-par playoff performances, and he was essentially run out of town, which was only delayed by a few serious injuries. He was exiled for two seasons (playing for the Québec Nordiques and New York Islanders) and came back to Philly and only had one Vezina-caliber season in his final five seasons in the City of Brotherly Love - the second, his age 31 season, the rest of the time most hockey pundits saying the Flyers still needed an upgrade at the position.

And they've been saying it ever since. As a matter of fact, since the Flyers last reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, 16 goalies have stood up in their crease - including an NHL-record eight in 2018-19 alone - and every single one of them was slammed by local press: Brian Boucher (two stints), Michael Leighton (two stints), Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Bryzgalov, Steve Mason, Ray Emery, Cal Heeter, Rob Zepp, Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz, Brian Elliott, Petr Mrazek, Cam Talbot, Mike McKenna, Calvin Pickard, and Hart; counting back to Hextall's Final, that's 42.

The only Vezina winner - Bob, of course, the only active two-time recipient of the award for best goaltending - was even run out of town before reaching his peak, replaced by Spaceman Bryz, a ne-tim finalist for the award who never again played like a #1 goalie after signing in Philly.

Tonight, as Hart twice let in goals minutes after his team would tie the game, I was reminded of the picture on this card, showing Bryzgalov looking behind himself at a puck that either went in the net or missed it:
That's card #29 from Panini's 2011-12 Crown Royale set and All The King's Men sub-set, a beautiful piece of cardboard that shows the goalie wearing the Flyers' retro/current home orange uniform, with a white game-worn "material" swatch in the crest.

Hopefully Hart's career in Philadelphia resembles more that of Parent than Bryz.

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