Don Maloney

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.

***

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.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.