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.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Canucks defeat the Sabres, as the losing continues in Buffalo

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The Buffalo Sabres remain stuck on just a single win to begin the season. Jack Eichel is sick of losing, but the losing continues.

Returning home from a four-game road trip out west, the Sabres had an opportunity ahead of them to get back into the win column. The Vancouver Canucks, hardly a powerhouse in any way, were in town. They had played — and lost — the night before in Boston. And then the Sabres went out and were thoroughly outplayed in a 4-2 loss that, one could argue, flattered the hosts.

They weren’t able to take advantage of an early lead after Justin Bailey was allowed access to the net off the rush. They couldn’t hold the lead after Eichel dangled Ben Hutton and then scored on a shot Jacob Markstrom should’ve stopped. They gave up yet another short-handed goal, putting that number at six for the Sabres just eight games into the season.

Instead, Buffalo spent most of the night in its own end, giving up 37 shots through two periods. Hard to pin this, in any way, on goalie Chad Johnson.

“First of all, I thought we didn’t defend well and close quick enough in our defensive zone. We were a little bit slow there tonight. We need to be more aggressive and on the puck,” said head coach Phil Housley after the game.

While the Sabres were badly outplayed, one of the deciding moments in this game was a controversial video review in the second period. Vancouver took the lead on a goal from Daniel Sedin, although Housley challenged for a potential offside after it looked like Jake Virtanen didn’t have control of the puck as he entered the zone.

The linesmen looked over the play for a lengthy review before officials came to the conclusion that Virtanen did have control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line. The goal stood and the Canucks controlled the remainder of the game.

“I disagree with the call, totally,” said Housley. “In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession.

“But I call that 10 out of 10 times offside and I would continue to challenge that again.”

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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