Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov broke an unwritten rule on the eve of the Winter Classic. He spoke about probable personnel decisions before the coaching staff even announced them.
Bryzgalov shocked everyone after practice this morning at the way he announced the news I had anticipated last night in my previous story. “I have great news and even better news,” Bryzgalov said. “Great news: I’m not playing tomorrow night. Good news: We have a chance to win the game.”
Bryzgalov’s statement is confusing. Was he taking a shot at the coaching staff? Peter Laviolette? The defensive corps that many feel have let him down lately? Either way, it’s not something that can be looked at as professional by the team.
When Bryzgalov was asked if he was upset with the decision he replied, “Of course. I’m human. I’m not made from steel.”
Peter Laviolette insisted that he had not announced any decisions yet regarding the goaltenders, and seemed visibly upset that this news broke out. Later in the day, the Flyers put a press release out announcing that Sergei Bobrovsky will indeed be starting the Winter Classic.
What was even more telling was certain Flyers teammates were quick to defend Laviolette’s decision. “You reward the players who play well, and work hard,” said Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen “Winter Classic or not, it doesn’t matter.”
Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, who knows what it’s like to be in Peter Laviolette’s doghouse from earlier this season, also defended the coach, but thinks this is what Bryzgalov needs to bounce back.
“I think it may be good for Bryz to get a wake up call and work on some things,” Hartnell said. While he wants to see his teammate get past this, he added that he didn’t think it was going to be a long term problem. “He’s going to be good for us. I have a lot of faith in him.”
Bryzgalov’s road to improvement needs to start with this setback at the Winter Classic. If he allows this to get under his skin and his relationship starts deteriorating with the coaching staff in the first year of a nine-year deal, the Flyers will have a problem on their hands.
One thing is clear, and that is Peter Laviolette hasn’t lost sight of what this is: A big regular season game with first place on the line. He proved today just how committed he is to getting these two points on Monday afternoon.
NOTES: The NHL announced the Winter Classic game will now be played at 3 PM EST due to weather concerns. The ice condition seems to be much better after 2-2:30ish judging by the day of the alumni game.