Though he did not make himself available to local reporters on Thursday, Philadelphia Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov freely spoke his mind to a Russian newspaper about being the latest hometown goalie to face the city's wrath.
"What I lived through this season I wouldn't wish to an enemy," he told Natalia Bragilevskaya of SovSport in an interview tranlsated by Philly.com. "I need to keep working. I understand the fans. They paid their money and want the show. But many forget that we are not robots, but living people. We have feelings, worries."
The Flyers were eliminated in five games by the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the NHL playoffs despite dispatching the Cup-contending Pittsburgh Penguins in the previous round.
Bryzgalov faced criticism for his play throughout the playoffs. The Flyers were able to outslug the Penguins in the first round despite the Russian goalie posting a series save percentage of just .886.
In the second round, however, Bryzgalov was better, posting a .910 save percentage. But the Flyers were unable to score at the same rate against the defensively-sound Devils managing just over two goals per game in their four consecutive losses to finish the series.
"I got very tired this season, to be honest," he said. "Now I know what it's like to be a goaltender in Philadelphia. Maybe from the outside it looks like there's nothing to it. You only realize it on your own."
The Flyers have gone through a myriad of options in net over the past two decades of playoff hockey. Since the team traded former Conn Smythe-winner Ron Hextall in 1992, the team has tried numerous options in net without anyone becoming the game-breaker needed to take the last step to winning the Stanley Cup.
Goaltenders like Michael Leighton, Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Ray Emery all had a crack at the Flyers' starting job before the team shelled out big money - $51 million over nine years - to lure the former Coyotes standout to town.
While Bryzgalov's play was sound throughout the regular season, posting a 33-16-7 record with a .909 save percentage and six shutouts, but he still felt the pressure in such a hockey-mad market.
"It is difficult" he said. "My face is everywhere. Everyone is talking about me: 'Bryzgalov played well.' 'Philadelphia won, but Bryz made a mistake again.' 'Yes, he wasn't scored against but could have been.'"
He stressed in the interview that he was human, but in a market like Philadelphia understanding may be hard to come by.
"Who doesn't make mistakes?" he asked. "How many [pucks] did I catch before then? But very few notice that. People are so concentrated on the negative that they only see the bad in me. But I think you need to be kinder to each other."