In professional sports, numbers come into play daily. They are used to judge the performance of players and teams, a tool to describe the hardship, or success, of the subject matter.
Philadelphia Flyers' goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has seen both ends of the spectrum in his nearly six-month tenure in the City of Brotherly Love.
For much of the season, certain numbers were being bandied about by his pundits, as if they were the beach ball they claimed he could not stop.
$51,000,000 -- the total amount of the nine-year contract he signed with the club last summer -- was a big one, as was (in excess of) 3.00 goals-against average and (sub) .900 save percentage, the lines basically denoting netminding mediocrity the way "The Mendoza Line" does in baseball for a player flirting with a .200 batting average. The salary number was even used as a comparison to that of what a backup goaltender was making during a game in which the Flyers were shutout on their last West coast road trip.
After the recent shutout streak recorded by Bryzgalov, all of the numbers are now trending in the right direction for the Philadelphia netminder.
- 249:43. That is one that will likely be mentioned for some time, as it's the new franchise mark for consecutive minutes of blanking the opposition, besting John Vanbiesbrouck's previous mark of 227:40, set in October of 1999. The total also barely beat out Bryzgalov's prior personal-best stretch of 249:15 while with the Anaheim Ducks in 2006.
- 3. While the streak is better than four game's worth of time, Bryzgalov did fail to record his fourth consecutive whitewash when New York Islanders' forward Michael Grabner beat him with a redirection of a Mark Streit point shot with 6:30 remaining in regulation time. The three straight shutouts also ties Vanbiesbrouck's Flyers' record.
- 112. That's how many shots Bryz stopped without allowing a single goal. Also known as "In the zone".
- 7. That's the length of Bryzgalov's current winning streak. During the hot stretch he has allowed just seven goals, and has yielded only four in his last six outings, while posting four shutouts.
- 29. The amount of wins now posted by the first-year Flyer. Not bad considering the rotating situation that he and backup Sergei Bobrovsky were in for some time in the early portion of the season. After 51 appearances, Bryzgalov is now a very respectable 29-13-6.
- 2.52. After hovering above the 3.00 GAA for most of the campaign, Bryzgalov has knocked a half a goal per game off his average. His season total is a near-mirror image of his career average, which is 2.53.
- .909. Bryz was anywhere from the high-.890's to a near-.900 for a good part of the year, but his current save percentage is at the highest point since the first few games of the season.
- 5. That's the number of consecutive times Bryzgalov was named the game's first star, which was snapped last night when Claude Giroux was named the star of the game.
- 6. That's the number of shutouts Bryzgalov now has for the season, good for third-best in the NHL behind only Jonathan Quick's seven, and Henrik Lundqvist's eight.
Over the course of the last six games of the seven-game winning streak, Bryzgalov has stopped 174 of the 178 shots he faced for a mind-twitsting .977 save percentage and a 0.49 GAA.
What most people fail to realize is that the netminder had been playing very well for some time before the streak began. He has played with a renewed confidence and looked much more technically sound since the All-Star break. Prior to last night's contest on Long Island, Bryzgalov had gone 8-2-0 with a 1.59 GAA and .941 save percentage in his last 10 outings.
The biggest thing moving forward for the goaltender is that everything right now is a positive, and the confidence in himself and shown by his teammates appears to have reached a high point for the year.
That is incredibly pertinent for the club, which has gotten itself back into the thick of the race for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference titles. Once thought to be wrapped up and locked away by the Rangers, the Flyers suddenly find themselves within six points of the top spot. The Pittsburgh Penguins are two points ahead of Philly, and the two will meet three more times before season's end, including one at the Wells Fargo Center this coming Sunday. But it would seem at this point, any of the top four Atlantic Division teams (with the New Jersey Devils at 87 points) could possibly take the conference crown.
The Flyers head into the final 12-game stretch of their 2011-12 campaign with the knowledge that they can control their fate to some extent.
One of the biggest deciding factors in how it all turns out could be the man between the pipes, and there's good reason to believe Bryzgalov will author a very happy ending. With all of the hoopla surrounding the shutout streak now over, he can just concentrate on stopping pucks and winning hockey games.
The numbers are now working in his favor, and he will attempt to make the Flyers the one team still standing when all is said and done in June.