With just under a week remaining until the puck drops at Citizens Bank Park for highly-anticipated 2012 Winter Classic, a simple message has been delivered to the Philadelphia Flyers: Houston, we have a problem!
You see, Flyers' netminder Ilya Bryzgalov might have poked his head a little too high into the clouds trying to discover the truth of the universe. Bryzgalov has been made consecutive appearances on our installments of The Three Stars of HBO's 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic with his never-ending thoughts about the universe, but lately, his numbers have been so cold, they belong on Pluto.
After beginning the month by rattling off six consecutive victories, the charismatic goaltender's consistency has fallen off the face of the Earth.
Bryzgalov's troubles began with a five-goal shellacking against the Boston Bruins on December 17. The 31-year-old connoisseur of Chinese tiger law followed up his forgetful performance against the Bruins, with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Avalanche just two nights later.
His next opportunity to right the spaceship came against the team he will face in the Winter Classic, the New York Rangers. But his "humangoos beeg" five hole struck again, resulting in a 4-2 loss to the Blueshirts.
While surrendering nearly as many goals (11) in those three starts as he had in the six-game winning streak to begin the month (14), resulting in a dismal .853 save percentage, last night's match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning provided another chance for the Russian netminder to get back on track. However, the Philly spaceman ran into a red-hot Steven Stamkos, who beat him twice en route to the latest catastrophic outcome for the Russian netminder.
"Outstanding!" a sarcastic Bryzgalov told reporters following his 5-1 loss to Tampa, when asked about how he felt he performed.
After dominating the Lightning over the first 20 minutes, the Flyers watched a 1-1 game implode into a three-goal deficit in the second period. Whereas Tampa goaltender Mathieu Garon stole the show for his team, turning away 16 of the Flyers' 17 shots in the first, Bryzgalov was still in the giving mood of the Holidays, allowing three goals on the first seven shots of the second frame.
Vinny Lecavalier added insult to injury, converting on an odd-man rush with Marty St. Louis with under a minute remaining in the game, giving Bryzgalov his second five-goal disaster in 10 days.
This recent string of troubles is nothing new for Bryzgalov, however.
After starting the season with three victories, Bryzgalov proceeded to rattle off a disgusting streak of performances, where he allowed four-plus goals in four straight games, resulting in four consecutive losses.
Once November hit, Bryzgalov finally reminded the Flyers and their fans why GM Paul Holmgren essentially flipped his entire organization upside down over the summer in order to sign the veteran goaltender to a nine-year, $51 million contract.
Following the bizarre 17-goal game against Winnipeg, which resulted in a 9-8 loss for the Flyers to end October, Bryzgalov threw together a solid November.
He posted a 4-1-1 record, while allowing only 16 goals over seven games. That stretch, coupled by his hot start to December, might have eased the minds of Philadelphia.
Photo courtesy of our friends at Puck Daddy, and resident Photoshopper John Schultz.
Unfortunately, Bryzgalov has the City of Brotherly Love feeling as if they've run straight into a left hook from Rocky Balboa.
Perhaps Bryzgalov is just lost again.
Following his rough end to October, Bryzgalov told reporters that he had "zero confidence" in himself and that he felt he was "lost in the woods."
This time, it might take more than Pocahontas to find Bryzgalov. The Flyers might have to call in NASA to locate him before the Winter Classic, because their goaltender has certainly gotten lost in "the infinite frontier," right Harry Caray?