Ilya Bryzgalov

Three (News) Stars of the Week: Talented teenagers, Montreal Canadiens and Ilya Bryzgalov

1 Comment

“Three (News) Stars of the Week” will run every Friday. It’s our way of acknowledging the week’s big NHL stories that gave us lots of page views, thereby increasing PHT’s attractiveness to advertisers.

Third star: A bunch of teenagers who are good at hockey

A number of the top picks from the 2011 draft were under the microscope this week as teams had to decide whether to keep their highly-touted prospects or send them back to junior. Most of the big names survived the cut, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier. Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad didn’t make it, so he’s clearly a bust. It will be interesting to see if any of the teams made mistakes keeping their young guys up instead of giving them more time to develop at a lower level. Kyle Turris was rushed into the NHL too soon, and his career’s a mess right now.

Second star: Somebody had to pay for Montreal’s slow start

The Canadiens lost to Florida on Monday at the Bell Center, dropping their record to a disastrous 1-5-2. It was the Habs’ worst start since dinosaurs roamed the earth, so the city was in quite the tizzy. Calls for coach Jacques Martin’s head came from both the fans and media. Sensing this unrest, GM Pierre Gauthier took decisive action and fired assistant coach Perry Pearn. Why he did this isn’t entirely clear. Some have speculated Martin had become too reliant on Pearn’s advice and wasn’t listening to the other people in the organization. Those other people must have had some useful things to say, because as soon as Pearn was gone the Habs started winning.

First star: Ilya Bryzgalov is a basket-case

The Flyers thought they’d finally put their biggest issue to rest this summer when general manager Paul Holmgren signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a huge contract that doesn’t run out for a long, long time. Many long-time hockey watchers considered it a risky move, as the 31-year-old Russian with the peculiar personality boasts no record of playoff success and has never played in a big hockey market like Philadelphia. Bryzgalov started out well with his new team, but he quickly fell on hard times. After a poor performance Wednesday in Montreal, he was forced to come off the bench Thursday against the Jets in relief of back-up Sergei Bobrovsky. Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 10 shots and Winnipeg won 9-8, after which the distraught goalie bared his soul to the media, admitting he had no confidence in himself, saying he was lost in the woods, and generally crumbling in front of our very eyes. Bryzgalov is scheduled to start Saturday in Carolina.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

3 Comments

Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

8 Comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

24 Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

***

Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

13 Comments

With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.