Peter Laviolette defends Ilya Bryzgalov; explains how bounties translate to hockey

March 8, 2012 – 7:30 am by Brad Gagnon

The Philadelphia Flyers have won three straight games as they jockey for playoff positioning with only 17 games remaining on the schedule. One of the keys to Philly’s recent success has been goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who has given up only three goals during the three-game streak. Considering the amount of heat ‘Bryz’ was taking earlier in the year for both his poor play and an alleged lack of leadership skills, that’s gotta be a welcome surprise to Flyers fans.

Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette joined Mike Missanelli on 97.5 the Fanatic in Philadelphia to talk about his streaking goaltender and to explain a reported rift between Bryzgalov and veteran forward Danny Briere. He also expanded on the team’s injury situation and attempted to explain the closest thing the hockey world has to bounties.

On a big save Ilya Bryzgalov made in the third period of Tuesday night’s game against Detroit:

“He came out a bit, too. Like it was tough — there was a scramble that went on that came to the net and the next thing you know the puck kicked out the back side of the scramble. And the guy who came off the wall found himself on the other side with the puck on his stick and I don’t think anybody else really saw it except Bryz. And he came over, he came out, he was in position and everything was taken away and he made the save. It was a big save at the time because, you know, Detroit, they’ve got a good team there, an experienced team with a lot of veteran players who have been playing together for a long time. They support the puck really well, they’re skilled. So you really gotta pay attention. I think we did a good job for two periods shutting them down, but the third period they found some gas, we lost some players in the lineup and the bench got shortened up. We needed our goaltender, and he came through for us.”

On Bryzgalov’s improved play overall:

“To me he seems like he’s really focused, he’s in charge of his net. I think that the way he’s practicing right now, the way he’s dialing in for practices and games, and his focus really leads to his performance. Obviously he’s got ability and talent to do what he does, but right now he’s getting in a little bit of a zone where he knows he’s gonna be starting, he goes in there, he does his job. In practice the next day, he goes out, he works at it. So he’s in a good place right now. He was — I think it was back a month and a half ago — he…was real good for a stretch of games, but now this is, it’s nice to see. This is playoff time, this is where your big players have gotta play big and it’s good to see him finding his groove right now.”

On reports that Danny Briere called out Bryzgalov for his lack of  leadership and if someone on the team shut Briere up:

“In talking to Danny that’s not what he meant. (It was) the way the article was written and the way it came across. Danny tried to say that today in the newspaper, because Danny felt bad on the way it came across. And you know how it works: they get in there, there’s a scrum, you talk for five minutes and they might take 15 seconds, 20 seconds, they might take the words that they want and the sentences that they want. I’m not saying that they made up something — they didn’t — but a lot of times you can take what you want and use it in context of a story that you have in your mind or whatever. But Danny was forthright with me and to Bryz. He went up to him and said, ‘Listen, that’s not what I mean. What I meant to say was you’re playing great, you’ve been great in the room, great with the guys, your personality’s been super.’”

On Bryzgalov making a conscious effort not to talk about himself after a strong performance Tuesday night:

“I think there’s always lots of conversations, Mike, with different players, and I’m not gonna get into what it is that we do behind the closed doors completely. But there’s conversations when players come in — new players, young players, older players, different types of players — you come into a market like Philadelphia, I think that you — like anything, like when you’re teaching Couturier about the penalty kill, you gotta teach about the media and the market and what goes on here, and I think there’s always things that go on. But there’s also a lot of different personalities in the room. And I think that at times people come out and there’s just different looks to different people. Bryz has said a whole bunch of different things this year, and he’s a big personality.”

On if a leadership group actually talked to Bryzgalov:

“Yeah, I’m unaware of that. I’m unaware of a group 0f — I’ll be honest with ya — I’m unaware of a group of people (doing so). Players on all sports teams (chirp) at each other. And I’m not saying that did or didn’t happen, I’m just saying that’s part of sports, that’s part of what we do. And I think that there is a pressure and accountability amongst peers. So I

On Nicklas Kronwall’s controversial hit on Jakub Voracek:

“I saw it once, it happened live and everything was down, he didn’t take a lot of steps, he’s a solid guy. And Jake looked, and then he looked back for the puck and he took a couple steps and the guy moved in on him. By definition of the legal hit their was nothing illegal about it. He didn’t take steps, he didn’t bring up his arm, he didn’t do anything. The one thing that I didn’t like about it — and this is just me — this hit would have flown in the 70s, in the 80s and the 90s no problem. Like, no problem. But we watched a lot of things sent from the league on what they’re cracking down on: anything that’s a hit to the head, that targets the head, and the head is the initial point of contact. And for me in watching (the hit), it just seems like he took it right on the chin, which is part of the head. And he got popped.”

On bounties in sports:

“I know that in the NHL, way in the past it has gone on. I’ve never seen it. Not (as) a player, when I used to play and a coach came in and said, ‘hey, there’s 1,500 bucks on the board if somebody takes this guy out or somebody opens it up’ or whatever. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never done it. I’ve never seen it done.”

On it happening in the past:

“I think I’ve heard stories, you know, of 25 years ago. I’m sure it has. I’m sure it has.”

On if he’s saying the NHL doesn’t engage in stuff like that:

“No I can’t even say that. I can tell you that we don’t or we haven’t or I never worked for a coach (who did). Now, that doesn’t mean that last night on the bench everybody wasn’t irritated and said ‘listen, anybody who gets a chance to run this guy, run him.’ That’s different, you know what I mean? There’s no bounty. ‘Hey, somebody just whacked our guy out there. Make sure we go whack him back.’ I think that happens all the time. Sometimes you don’t even have to say that. Like, I know Zac Rinaldo wanted to hit him, he wanted to get out there and bang him. That doesn’t mean that you want to hurt him or you want to take him out of the game or you’re gonna pay him $2,500 if he does.”

Listen to Peter Laviolette with Mike Missanelli on the Fanatic here

Brad Gagnon is also the NFL editor at theScore.com‘s Goal-Line Stand blog. He can be followed on Twitter right here.

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