In Bryz they never could quite trust.
Which is why Ilya Brzgalov, whose inconsistency stopping the puck wasn’t so much the problem as the soap opera around him, has been exiled to the NHL’s equivalent to Siberia. His place in goal has been taken by Steve Mason and Ray Emery, two players that have flashed brilliance elsewhere. Now they’re relocated here hoping to recapture the glory.
And while there is some healthy competition, there won’t be any backstabbing.
“Our goal is to provide the Flyers with solid goaltending,” said the 25-year-old Mason, who posted a dazzling 1.90 goals-against in his seven-game stint after coming over at the trade deadline from Columbus. “It’s going to be a great competition whether it plays out through camp or the start of the regular season. I talked to guys Ray played with in Chicago and even guys he played with here. He’s a team-first guy with a great personality. He brings experience to this locker room.”
Not exactly the way the enigmatic Bryzgalov talked about his competition in goal, Sergei Bobrovsky in 2012, then little-used Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher last season.
“It’s a healthy competition, I guess you could say,” said Emery, starting his second tour of duty here after a hip injury short-circuited his 2010 season. “Both guys want to play, obviously, as much as they can. I want to have the best camp I can to be ready. I’m sure Steve does as well.”
The battle for No. 1 figures to last well into the start of the regular season, with the 30-year-old Emery expected to face the Caps in a preseason game here tonight. He split time with Crawford last season and posted a sterling 17-1 record with a 1.94 goals-against in the regular season for Chicago.
Meanwhile, Mason is welcoming the challenge. He credited Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese for calming him down and helping restore his confidence.
“Whether or not Bryz was coming back, my goal was to come in and be the No. 1 guy here,” said Mason, who became expendable ironically when Bobrovsky beat him out for the job. “That’s the opportunity as it is now. With Ray coming in, the goal is the same. But we’re on the same team here. Whether Ray is in net or I am in net, we’re gonna support each other.”
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, who made the decision to jettison Bryzgalov and get his $5.65 million off the books, loves the attitude.
“They’re both extremely competitive,” said Holmgren. “But they both want to help us win hockey games.”