3.. 2.. 1.. Take off.
The Flyers' season doesn't begin for another week and a half, but goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is already making headlines in the Philadelphia media with his quotes.
“He's like from the movie Cast Away. We need to buy some ball for him so he has best buddy Wilson," said Bryzgalov when asked about forward Scott Hartnell's hairstyle.
It was a line that certainly generated some laughs around Twitter and the blogosphere today, but does Bryzgalov's joking nature distract him from performing well on the ice?
Last season, Bryzgalov saw some stretches where he really struggled, and it sometimes seemed as if he would never gain his bearings and fit well in Philly. Heading into 2013, the 32-year-old goaltender seems much more prepared to be the go-to guy.
“I had a great experience the last year. I understand the philosophy of how it works here, the fans, media, even the management of the team. I make some notes in my head for myself. And I’m going to follow them," said a collected Bryzgalov.
Bryz has been a topic of discussion since the lockout ended, mostly because the league has added an "amnesty clause" that allows teams to terminate unwanted contracts for a price. Bryzgalov says he's not worried about the clause, and that he just needs to "play hard" and the rest will work itself out.
The former Phoenix Coyote netminder is also looking forward to an expanded workload, at least percentage wise, this season. Head Coach Peter Laviolette has vowed to play Bryzgalov more, and Bryz certainly welcomed that opportunity.
“I love to play a lot. When I play in Phoenix, I play almost 70 games a season and I feel great," said Bryzgalov.
Obviously, 70 games isn't going to be an option in this 48-game, lockout-shortened campaign, but not having a goaltender like Sergie Bobrovsky behind him stealing more than just spot starts will certainly force Bryzgalov into a more prominent role.
Last season, Bryzgalov finished with a .909 save percentage, 2.48 goals against average, and one charge of larceny after a fully-extended glove save on Pittsburgh Penguins' defenseman Kris Letang in the playoffs. Bryz started just 59 games in the regular season.
With the Coyotes in '10-'11, Bryzgalov played in nine more games. He finished with an identical goals against average (2.48), but his save percentage was much more efficient at .921 for the season.
The year before that, Bryzgalov started all 69 games that he played in. He posted a 2.29 goals against average with a .920 save percentage and 42 wins in what stands, right now, as the best season of his nine-year career.
The moral of the story? Ilya Bryzgalov needs to play, and he needs to play often.
He has the ability to be an elite goaltender in the National Hockey League when he's on top of his game. With the mental hurdles seemingly in the past, and without anyone breathing down his neck for playing time or overly criticizing his off-the-wall quotes, Bryzgalov can focus on being the starting goaltender.
We're acclimated to Bryzgalov's personality and playing style. He's acclimated to the heightened media attention and extremely passionate fan base. Let's hope the Russian goaltender can build upon a decent 2012 campaign and turn it into a stellar 2013 season.
That would be one small step for Bryz, one giant leap for the Philadelphia Flyers.
C.J. Burns is a contributor for Buzz on Broad. Follow him on Twitter @CJBurns215