Whether the Minnesota Wild like it or not, they’ll need to stick with Ilya Bryzgalov in net against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 on Sunday. If nothing else, head coach Mike Yeo is saying all the right things about Breezy, at least to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
Yeo told Russo that he has a “good feeling” that the 33-year-old netminder will “play well” in Game 2.
As PHT noted on Friday, injuries continue to hinder the Wild in net. Yeo backed up yesterday’s update that Darcy Kuemper is not with the team just yet as he continues to struggle with an injury suffered during Game 7 of the Wild’s first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche.
While Yeo is putting on a brave face, Russo notes that Bryzgalov has been struggling lately. After a strong finish to the regular season (5-1-1 with two shutouts), Bryzgalov has struggled in the postseason. His lone playoff win in 2014 came after playing 13:15 in Game 7 following Kuemper’s injury.
Despite besting Bryzgalov and the Wild 5-2 in Game 1, more than a few Blackhawks players noted that they weren’t totally happy with their efforts in that victory (Johnny Oduya told Russo that they “got away with one”), so things could be even more challenging for the Russian goalie.
Ilya Bryzgalov’s been in some tough spots this season,* from being without an NHL gig to meeting two new sets of teammates. Wednesday presented maybe the toughest one yet: replacing Darcy Kuemper in the Minnesota Wild’s net with a bit more than eight minutes remaining in Game 7.
The margin of error couldn’t be much smaller: the Colorado Avalanche lead 4-3 with precious little time, so any goals allowed could very well stunt a comeback attempt.
Kuemper may want a goal or two back – particularly Erik Johnson’s tally – but the belief is that his health challenges might have gotten the best of him.
We’ll see if the Wild can tie things up to give Bryzgalov a real chance to put his own stamp on this game (and series).
* – Waits for “in Edmonton” jokes …
There are probably situations in between, but you can generalize that a goalie gets pulled for one of two reasons: a) he’s allowing goals because he isn’t playing well or b) he’s allowing goals because his team isn’t playing well.
Again, maybe it’s a mixture of the two, but the general vibe was that the Minnesota Wild hung Ilya Bryzgalov out to dry against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 on Saturday. Bryzgalov allowed three goals on 14 shots in a shade less than 32 minutes of game time.
Take a look at that trio of goals by Colorado and determine how much blame Breezy deserves. (Darcy Kuemper came in relief for Bryzgalov, by the way.)
Really, though, when you consider that Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny collected points on all three goals while Gabriel Landeskog scored two of them, maybe we should provide c) the other team is just that dangerous.
For the most part, Ilya Bryzgalov has taken full advantage of his opportunity to grab at least a temporary hold of the Minnesota Wild’s starting job. That doesn’t meant that Bryzgalov hasn’t had his, well, Bryzgalov moments.
Sunday was a prime example of that, as this odd goal happened (and maybe helped the Nashville Predators turn it another unusually high-scoring game for head coach Barry Trotz):
The way things are going, a goaltending battle that could have been a tough call for the Minnesota Wild might be, well, a breeze.
The Wild are now just one point short of clinching a spot in the playoffs after beating the Winnipeg Jets 1-0 on Monday. The bigger story might just be the emergence of a guy serenaded by Jets fans: Ilya Bryzgalov.
(Don’t lie, you have to be at least half-excited to find out what kind of weird things he might say in the playoffs.)
Anyway, Bryzgalov continues to be a quick study in the Wild net, as he now has a two-game shutout streak going; the Russian-born netminder hasn’t allowed a goal in 142:15 of game time, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
The 33-year-old is 6-0-3 with three shutouts, a .929 save percentage and 1.67 GAA with the Wild. (Not bad for a guy who went 5-8-5 with shaky numbers during his time in Edmonton.)
While the Wild may very well be finding answers in net, the Jets’ goaltending questions seem to go even deeper. Michael Hutchinson didn’t light the world on fire in a loss, yet he did stop 16 out of 17 shots against Minnesota.
As far as the Jets’ splashier bit of drama goes, Evander Kane seemed to get back into the groove, receiving more than 19 minutes of ice time after Sunday’s healthy scratch. Will that silence all questions going into an uncertain offseason? Probably not.
Bryzgalov likely knows where Kane is coming from when it comes to ups and downs along with media drama, even if each player may paint that picture differently.
Related: Could this be it for Bryzgalov?