Don’t miss Orioles players, John Means & Paul Fry, as they guest host at our Brews and O’s event!

Flyers set with Bobrovsky in goal for Winter Classic

PHILADELPHIA — In what sometimes seemed more like a comedy routine than an impromptu news conference in the Flyers' locker room at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, Ilya Bryzgalov revealed that backup Sergei Bobrovsky would be the team's starting goalie in Monday's Winter Classic against the New York Rangers.

"I have great news and even better news," said Bryzgalov, who has lost four straight and struggled through most of the season. "Great news: I'm not playing (today). And good news: We have a chance to win the game."

He was mocking himself for his poor play. Signed to a nine-year, $51 million contract before the season, Bryzgalov has a 3.01 goals against average and .890 save percentage. Both are career worsts.

In his last four games, he has a 4.58 GAA and .816 save percentage.

"It's not the end of the universe," Bryzgalov, 31, said of being benched.

Bobrovsky, 23, has been on a hot streak. In his last eight games, he is 5-1 with two no-decisions and a 1.55 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

While saying they still have confidence in Bryzgalov, virtually everyone in the Flyers' locker room seemed pleased Bobrovsky was getting the nod.

"Bryz has maybe had a tough couple games, but Bob has been pretty steady the whole year," high-scoring winger Scott Hartnell said. "I think it might be good for Bryz to get a wake-up call and work on some things and get back to the goalie he can be and that we all know. That's why (general manager Paul Holmgren) signed him. He's going to be good for us. I have a lot of faith in him. He's a good man and a great goalie, and he'll be there for us."

But not on today — in the biggest stage of the NHL's regular season.

"It's totally deserved," center Danny Briere said of Bobrovsky getting the start. "For us, it doesn't matter who's playing, but it's good to see Bob being rewarded for his play."

"Obviously, Bob deserves it," center Claude Giroux said. "He's been playing well and since the start of the season he's been working hard. I think guys see how hard he works."

No one outworks Bobrovsky, defenseman Braydon Coburn said.

"This guy probably is the last guy to leave from the practice rink every day. I know, because I'm usually the second-to-last," Coburn said. "He's kind of a little bit of an opposite to Bryz. He's easy-going, and Bryz is a personality."

Bobrovsky refused to say he was starting, smiling and saying it was not his place to make an announcement.

"It doesn't matter who starts because the most important thing is the result," said the second-year goalie. "It's a real game. It's two points on the line, so it'll be special. But the result is the most important thing."

Bobrovsky is 8-2-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Playing part-time, he conceded, "is more difficult to be as confident and as prepared because I never know when I'll start. There's no rhythm for the preparation."

Is it going to be one the biggest games of his life?

Bobrovsky grinned.

"At this point, "every game is the most important game of my career," he said.

Bryzgalov, whose announcement reportedly infuriated Flyers' coaches, was asked about his mindset for the Winter Classic

"Make sure I don't forget early in the morning my thermos. Put some nice tea in and enjoy the bench," he deadpanned.

About a half hour after Bryzgalov revealed that Bobrovsky would start, coach Peter Laviolette refused to announce his decision. Laviolette said he hadn't talked to either goalie yet and would speak with them later in the day.

Bryzgalov said he was told of the decision by goalie coach Jeff Reese.

"Yes. I'm a human," said Bryzgalov when asked if he was disappointed. "I'm not made from steel, but it is what it is, and I had a good practice again like yesterday and two days ago. We just keep moving forward and lots of games in front of us. Lots of hockey. I heard it was still the main goal in Philadelphia to win the Stanley Cup and prepare for this."

Laviolette said he some "tough conversations," telling players they were not in the lineup.

"Nobody wants to hear that they are not playing," Laviolette said. "Those are conversations I don't … take lightly. I think when it comes down to making decisions, you want to put the team on the ice you feel has the best opportunity to be successful."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad