The Minnesota Wild appeared in good shape late in the first period, up by a goal on the Chicago Blackhawks.
That was until Patrick Sharp beat Ilya Bryzgalov through the legs with a wrist shot from near the bottom of the faceoff circle, tying Game 4 at a goal apiece with only 39 seconds remaining in the first period. It was only one of four Chicago shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.
The Wild trail 2-1 in the series. Bryzgalov earned the shutout in Game 3. It was his first since 2006.
Now, in the interest of fairness, here is a video of the Wild’s second goal, courtesy of Jason Pominville, who, from behind the net, fired the puck off the skates of Corey Crawford and in. Minnesota took a 2-1 lead as a result.
Ilya Bryzgalov isn’t the man the Minnesota Wild had planned on using as their starting goaltender in the playoffs. They’ve gone with him in the second round against Chicago because netminders Darcy Kuemper, Niklas Backstrom, and Josh Harding have all been hurt.
He’s had some rough outings in the playoffs too, but Wild coach Mike Yeo has stood by him.
“After Game 2 (three goals on 21 shots), there were a lot of questions, (but) we believed in Bryz,” Yeo said, per the Calgary Sun. “We knew what he was capable of, but the questions start to grow in numbers and the attention towards that continues to grow.”
He rewarded Minnesota with a 19-save shutout on Tuesday. It’s something for him to build off of and the Wild to rally around.
“He didn’t get tested a lot last game, but when he did, he made some really big saves,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “I know he made a big one on (Jonathan) Toews in the third period that could have changed the game around. You need those saves right now.”
Minnesota just has to hope that Bryzgalov’s got another solid performance ahead of him because unless something changes, he’s all they’ve got.
While Ilya Bryzgalov’s individual stats continue to look paltry on paper, many believe that he wasn’t at fault for many (if any) of the goals he’s allowed through two losses against the Chicago Blackhawks. Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo shares that sentiment … or at least he realizes that he doesn’t have much of a choice but to support Bryzgalov.
Following Sunday’s 4-1 Game 2 loss, Yeo emphatically named Bryzgalov as Minnesota’s Game 3 starter. In fact, he said that discussing it is basically a waste of time in general, as NHL.com reports.
“He’s in the net,” Yeo said. “We got to find a way to get a win and that’s all of us. That’s him, but our team too and I’m not going to sit around and wait for another option, for someone else to come in. This is the guy, so let’s quit even talking about it. We shouldn’t even be talking about who is backing up. [Bryzgalov] is the guy right now and so we have to find a way as a team and as a staff to get a win.”
As this post indicates, one way to get back into the series would be to find away for the big trio of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter to break free.
Whatever the case may be, it’s up to Yeo to find the answers and Bryzgalov & Co. to rise to the occasion to avoid a swift exit against the Blackhawks.
At least Yeo is doing whatever he can to avoid the distraction of a goalie controversy. Then again, the Wild are probably accustomed to unrest considering their luck with netminders this season.
Here’s video of Yeo’s press conference:
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 …