Ilya Bryzgalov

Can the Bryz bounce back?

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Ilya Bryzgalov flew far from under the radar during his first season with the Flyers. In fact, if he were a fighter pilot, he’d have been blown out of the sky by the end of October.

Signed to a nine-year, $51 million contract in June, Bryzgalov was supposed to bring stability to a position that had been anything but stable in Philadelphia since, well, a long time ago.

He started out decently enough, winning his first two games and allowing just one goal in the process.

Then it got interesting.

Now, it’s not our intention to use Flyers Day on PHT to look back on Bryzgalov’s tumultuous season. (Feel free to search his name for that. Enjoy the 1,073 posts.)

Our intention is to look forward to 2012-13. Specifically, can the 32-year-old Russian rediscover the form that earned him the big contract in the first place?

From 2007-08 to 2010-11 with the Coyotes, Bryzgalov was one of the NHL’s elite goalies. During his last season in Phoenix, he went 36-20-10 with a .921 save percentage and seven shutouts.

Yet despite those numbers, everyone knew the Flyers were taking a considerable risk by locking him up for nine years.

First off, Bryzgalov had never played in a high-pressure market like Philadelphia. Suffice to say his eccentricities didn’t get as much play in Phoenix.

Second, the Coyotes play a defense-first system under coach Dave Tippett, and defense-first systems often mean fewer quality shots against. As a result, goalies can have their save percentages inflated.

Philadelphia, of course, plays a very different style than Phoenix, and Chris Pronger’s absence for all but 13 games didn’t help shore things up on the back end.

For optimistic Flyers fans, Bryzgalov now knows exactly what he’s gotten himself into by signing in Philadelphia. If the media caught him off guard when he first arrived, it won’t this time. Nor will HBO cameras be stalking him.

Bryzgalov will also be familiar with the players in front of him, save for new additions Luke Schenn and, possibly, Shea Weber.

Speaking of Weber, it’s hard for a goalie to get worse with the addition of one of the best defenseman in the league.

Optimists will also take comfort in Bryzgalov’s post All-Star Game numbers (.929 SV%) compared to the ones prior to Jan. 29 (.895 SV%).

For pessimists, it’s hard to overlook what happened in the playoffs when Bryzgalov allowed 37 goals in 11 games. (To put that in perspective, Jonathan Quick allowed 29 goals in 20 games.)

Obviously we don’t know if Bryzgalov will bounce back. But what we do know is he’s used his mulligan. Another less-than-stellar season and that contract looks a lot longer.

Related: Offseason Report: Philadelphia Flyers

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday