With Bryzgalov’s rights traded, Coyotes face three roads to goaltending solution

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Whenever a goalie jumps onto the scene, there’s at least a thought given to the idea that his success might have something to do with his system. In the case of former Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, that idea seemed half-decent until you realize that the ‘Yotes defense wasn’t as stout as it appeared. Bryzgalov helped the team to a sixth seed stance even though Phoenix allowed 32.6 shots per regular season game, the third highest total in the NHL.*

As much as the Coyotes semi-renaissance amid ownership struggles has to do with the coaching of Dave Tippett, it’s not a coincidence that the upswing happened once the team found its best goalie since Nikolai Khabibulin was a young Russian holding out for more money. With just so-so backup Jason LaBarbera locked up for the near future, the scary question is: what will the cash-strapped Coyotes do about their goaltending situation?

Phoenix GM Don Maloney explained his “three-pronged strategy” for replacing Bryzgalov to the Arizona Republic.

– Acquiring a top young player via trade: “There’s three or four in other organizations that may be available in a trade that would cost a good asset but may potentially solidify your goaltending for a long time; that’s one obvious way to look at it.”

Young goalies who could conceivably be in play include Vancouver’s Cory Schneider, Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier and maybe even Philly goalie Sergei Bobrovsky if things get really weird. The problem with those options is that they haven’t proven they can carry the No. 1 workload, which was less of a question with Breezy, who won two first round series in his time as a great Anaheim Ducks’ No. 2.

– Signing an unrestricted free agent: “There’s two or three players in that grouping that we like. We think in our system with (goaltending coach) Sean Burke would be good fits for us.”

The most obvious answer – one that AZ Republic writer Jim Gintonio also notes – is Tomas Vokoun. He’s been a stats blogger’s darling for putting up consistently great save percentage stats while he wallowed in obscurity in Sunrise, Florida. He could be the kind of guy who could maintain or even improve upon their netminding, although he’s aging and will likely come at a hefty price.

– Bringing in an experienced goaltender: “I’ve had a couple conversations (this week) regarding some very good established goaltenders on other clubs that for financial reasons they might be looking to make some changes.”

This is an interesting option, though it’s tough to tell who Maloney might be thinking of. Unless Bryzgalov’s asking price was truly as exorbitant as the Coyotes claim, it’s hard to imagine the franchise being too comfortable paying Miikka Kiprusoff (random example) $5.83 million per year.

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While Phoenix’s goalie scenario still seems murky, it does seem like they have options. The key will be to find the right guy at the right price, but perhaps most importantly add better players around that netminder. The Detroit Red Wings embarrassed the Coyotes in the first round this year, and while many blamed Bryzgalov, it was obvious that the talent disparity was severe.

We’ll keep you informed about the Coyotes maneuverings for a netminder during what could be an interesting summer at the position.

* – The Boston Bruins allowed the second highest total (32.7) while the Carolina Hurricanes allowed the most (33.2). The fact that Tim Thomas regularly cleaned up Boston’s mistakes in the regular season as well makes his Vezina Trophy nomination (and save percentage record) that much more impressive.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: