Ilya Bryzgalov

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Flyers buy out Bryzgalov

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After falling just shy of winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers were swept in the second round of the 2011 playoffs.

At that point, the Flyers thought they were one good goaltender short of a parade. Sergei Bobrovsky had been solid in his rookie campaign, but the inexperienced netminder struggled in his first playoff run and the organization wasn’t prepared to take a chance with him leading the charge again.

Instead, they dealt forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in separate trades to free up the cap space necessary to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract in June 2011.

“He does give us stability,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said at the time, per TSN.ca.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Instead, what the Flyers got was one of the most remarkable blunders in recent history. Bryzgalov wasn’t always bad, but never justified his paycheck. Despite that, it was stunning to see the plug being pulled on the experiment after just two seasons as Holmgren called Bryzgalov a “costly mistake” after buying him out.

Part of Holmgren’s motivation might have come from Bryzgalov’s interviews as much as his struggles on the ice. After just one campaign, the Flyers GM had already complained that his goaltender shouldn’t act like he was on Comedy Central.

In that vein of not taking things seriously, Bryzgalov also reportedly fell asleep during a team meeting, took issue with the Philadelphia media during an interview and had some problems with the Russian media as well.

When he was bought out, Bryzgalov did thank the Flyers, but his agent Ritch Winter blasted the team’s defensive system and claimed it was “terrible for goaltenders in Philadelphia.”

Goaltender Steve Mason might disagree with that. He’s just one of the many players that has been positively impacted, some more bizarrely than others, by Bryzgalov’s move to Philadelphia. In the end, perhaps that’s the weirdest part of this story.

Carter and Richards obviously won the Stanley Cup within a year of getting traded, but they weren’t the only ones that could be called winners in all of this.

Bobrovsky was dealt eventually too because of Bryzgalov’s presence and he went on to win the Vezina Trophy. His rise combined with Bryzgalov’s ongoing struggles in Philadelphia, led to Mason finally getting a change of scenery that has, for the most part, been a plus for him.

You could even say it helped Mike Smith as he got a golden opportunity with the Coyotes after Bryzgalov snubbed them in favor of Philadelphia. Smith took full advantage of that opportunity and that led to him getting a six-year, $34 million contract.

In the end, it’s hard to even call Bryzgalov a loser in all of this because, while he obviously had different expectations in mind when he left the small market Phoenix Coyotes in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, he’s still going to make roughly $1.6 million annually through 2026-27.

So the only obvious losers in all of this were the Flyers, for two reasons: 1) they’ll be writing checks for over a decade to a goaltender they barely got any use out of and no longer want anything to do with, and 2) he completely failed provide the stability that Holmgren sought.

As such, Philadelphia’s quest for its first Cup since 1975 goes on.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.