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?
The plan was for Ilya Bryzgalov to have a lengthy NHL career. That’s surely what he assumed would happen when he signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer of 2011.
Of course, his time in Philadelphia was rocky — and that’s putting it politely. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren called him a “costly mistake” and bought him out just two years into the deal.
He went unsigned over the summer and had to wait until November before one of the worst teams in the league, the Edmonton Oilers, were willing to take a chance on him. He was later traded to the Minnesota Wild.
He hasn’t exactly made the Flyers regret giving up on him, but he has been solid enough this season with a 2.66 GAA and .911 save percentage in 29 games and has been particularly good in Minnesota.
All the same, when the question of his impending status as an unrestricted free agent came up, the 33-year-old goaltender wasn’t even ready to commit to extending his career.
“It doesn’t mean anything because I’m not sure I want to play next year,” Bryzgalov told the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff. “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
Bryzgalov admitted that thoughts of retirement are relatively new for him, although he added that he hasn’t lost his love of the game.
By buying Bryzgalov out, Philadelphia has committed to giving him roughly $1.6 million annually through 2026-27, so he’s going to get paid for years to come regardless of whether or not he plays. That being said, after his work this season, he’s likely to attract some interest over the summer.
News and notes from around the crease…
Minnesota sticks with Bryz
Ilya Bryzgalov will make his second straight start for the Wild tonight, putting Darcy Kuemper in a back-up role once again.
Bryzgalov earned tonight’s start on the strength of 23 saves in a big 3-1 win in Phoenix over the weekend. The victory came after Kuemper struggled in consecutive losses to Vancouver at St. Louis — following the Blues loss, Wild head coach Mike Yeo said he felt bad for Kuemper, noting the club put the 23-year-old in a difficult spot by handing him the No. 1 gig after he entered the year as the No. 3 behind Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.
Bryzgalov and the Wild will face the Kings tonight, and Jonathan Quick will get the start for L.A.
Devils roll with Marty
Desperate to keep its flickering playoff hopes alive, New Jersey will give Martin Brodeur the nod tonight against Florida.
Brodeur has been splitting games with Cory Schneider for the last two weeks — on Saturday, Schneider was in goal for a 2-1 shootout loss to the Islanders, marking the 10th time the Devils have lost in 10 shootouts this season. As a result, the Devils head into tonight’s game five points back of Columbus for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
For Florida, Dan Ellis will get the nod again as Roberto Luongo remains sidelined after getting run over by Carolina’s Radek Dvorak last week.
‘Canes at Sens: Craig Anderson for Ottawa; Cam Ward likely for Carolina.
Jets at Ducks: Frederik Andersen for Anaheim; Ondrej Pavelec likely for Winnipeg.
Wednesday wasn’t a great night for Minnesota Wild goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper, as they both struggled in a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. That doesn’t mean it was a night without its positive moments, especially when Bryzgalov delighted a fan by giving her his goalie stick:
That was the most heartwarming moment of stick use in the game, but Alexander Edler provided the other unusual bit of stick use by saving a goal:
Ilya Bryzgalov will be back in Minnesota’s net tonight in New Jersey, two days after shutting out the Islanders, 6-0.
“When a goalie has a shutout we like to come back with him,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “I just thought he was very good in that game, especially early in the game. All game long he had a very calming presence in the net and he looked big. We want to give him a chance to get back at it and see if he can continue that.”
Bryzgalov stopped all 36 shots he faced in New York, upping his save percentage to a respectable .913. If he continues to play well, it’s possible he sees action in the playoffs, though rookie Darcy Kuemper probably remains the current favorite to start.
Bryzgalov was traded to Minnesota from Edmonton prior to the deadline. In two appearances for the Wild, he’s allowed just two goals on 58 shots.