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|21 января 2013 года.
Quirky Bryzgalov trying to be more focused // Gannett News Service
By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY Sports
The difference between an eccentric goalie and an unfocused goalie often comes down to his save percentage and goals-against average.
When Ilya Bryzgalov was on the top of his game playing for the Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes, he was considered colorful, witty and charming. But when he didn't live up to expectations as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers last season, Bryzgalov was considered four stops past nutty and not as hyper-focused as a goalie ought to be.
"If you look at his numbers last season, we know and he knows he can be better," Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese said. "But his numbers last season were not bad. They were actually pretty good numbers. If you said a goalie had 33 wins and 16 losses, you would say that's pretty good. But it's a different animal here."
It's a different animal for Bryzgalov because in the summer of 2011, he signed a nine-year, $51 million contract. He received that contract because he looked like he would be the solution to a 13-year problem. The Flyers haven't had a desirable long-term answer in net since Ron Hextall was their mainstay.
It's a different animal because Bryzgalov is surrounded by enough talent to win the team's first Stanley Cup in 37 years.
It's a different animal because it's Philly, where fans once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles' game.
Flyers fans revere a warrior like Bobby Clarke, or a fighter like Dave Schultz, or a brick wall like Bernie Parent. When they are trying to figure out how their team is going to move past the New York Rangers, they don't want to hear their goalie say he feels like his game is "lost in the woods."
Word around Philadelphia this season is that Bryzgalov now totally understands what it means to be a Flyer.
"He seems a lot more comfortable," Reese said. "He is very focused, and he's in great shape."
Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said he believes Bryzgalov has a "little bit different attitude this year."
"I think he feels more comfortable especially in the dressing room," Hartnell said. "On the ice, it looks like he's practicing a little bit harder on the things that he struggled with last season, puck control and things like that."
Those comments came before Bryzgalov's 0-2 start, but Bryzgalov looked dependable in the Flyers' opening game loss to Pittsburgh. Two days later, he faced 40 shots, giving up four goals in a loss to Buffalo. He has a .909 save percentage after two outings.
"We are not making any excuses for last season, but there all kinds of adjustments. He had to move the family. There was the pressure of the big contract. There were kinds of changes," Reese said. "But he has made adjustments. This year he just seems to be more relaxed and really focused. "
The Flyers obviously hope Bryzgalov's performance level becomes a more important story than what he has to say. Now that he's in a media major market, Bryzgalov seems to have a comedic presence .
He was a breakout star in HBO's 24/7 series with his musings on the origins and vastness of the universe, the death penalty in China for killing an endangered tiger or his comparison of a Husky dog to a "hot girl."
While playing in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League this winter, he visited the Russian Space Center and talked about his desire to be a cosmonaut. That helped fuel more speculation that his personality is out of this world.
"I would say he is misunderstood," Reese said. "People always think that he's trying to be funny. But he is interested in that stuff. It's not all about hockey. He has other interests like history. People make fun of it. But it's interesting to him. He's not doing it for a joke."
Bryzgalov certainly appreciates that his situation in Philadelphia requires his undivided attention. Ideally, the Flyers would hope he plays well enough to earn all-universe honors this season. They want him to show beyond any doubt that he's their solution in net.
Last season, Bryzgalov said he was only afraid of "bears in the forest." But he has to at least be concerned about what happens if he isn't sharp this season. With the league's salary cap being lowered to $64.3 million next season to accommodate the new collective bargaining agreement, teams will be allowed to buy out up to two player contracts and not have the money count against the cap.
If the season doesn't go well, Bryzgalov could end up contemplating the solar system from a different place on this planet.
Credit: Kevin Allen, USA TODAY Sports