Tag: Ilya Bryzgalov

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game Five

PHT Morning Skate: Three teams face elimination in Game 6s


Sunday’s Game 6 action wound up being suddenly dramatic with the Blues and Stars sent packing, the latter in stunning fashion. Tonight could wind up being similar with three Game 6s involving three teams on the brink of elimination.

While the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets seem to be more up against the wall, the Los Angeles Kings seem to be sitting prettier after convincing wins in the past two games. There may not be any panic with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Colorado Avalanche, but the San Jose Sharks might be feeling the heat. Having to try and settle down on the road might prove tricky.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,250 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $250. Starts Monday at 7pm ETHere’s the FanDuel link.

Game 6: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins [Pittsburgh leads series 3-2] (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins sure looked a bit more like the team we thought they’d be in winning Game 5. It wasn’t a blowout win, but their 3-1 victory saw them dominate the Blue Jackets in shots and scoring chances. Game 6 sets up to be a bit trickier at Nationwide Arena and perhaps the question is how Marc-Andre Fleury will handle being back at the scene of a tremendous letdown in Game 4.

Fleury will need to be sharp if how Sergei Bobrovsky’s play in Game 5 is any indication. Bobrovsky stopped 48 shots in the loss and looked every bit the guy who won the Vezina Trophy last season. While Bob has been able to keep Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby from scoring goals, it’ll be up to his team to figure out their own offensive attack in Game 6. If Columbus can’t figure that out, a handshake line may appear later tonight.

Game 6: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche [Colorado leads series 3-2] (9:00 p.m. ET — CNBC)

Minnesota’s Game 5 loss had to be an especially bitter pill to swallow. Giving up the lead late and then losing in overtime, albeit in controversial fashion, would stick in the craw of a lot of teams. Expect that to be the case for the Wild back home as they’ll use that as motivation to force a Game 7.

The Avs continue to get stellar play from Semyon Varlamov in goal and Nathan MacKinnon up front. MacKinnon is up to 10 points in this series and has been a full-blown menace to the Wild. Add in that there’s a chance Matt Duchene comes back, and suddenly Minnesota’s situation looks more dire.

After Zach Parise found the net in Game 5, it’s time for Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu to do the same. Crazy to think after Ilya Bryzgalov’s rocky start in the series, Darcy Kuemper has been the rock they can lean on. They’ll need him to outduel Varlamov the rest of the way.

Game 6: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks [San Jose leads series 3-2] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

After being up 3-0 in the series, the Sharks suddenly don’t look quite like the powerhouse they were. The Kings have taken it to the Sharks in the past two games and suddenly this series has all the markings of one destine to go seven games and provide for either a massive sigh of relief in San Jose or an incredible collapse.

If the Sharks are to avoid the latter, it may be on Alex Stalock to steady things in Game 6. Starting San Jose’s backup goalie may be coach Todd McLellan’s one play to make to get his team to focus. Antti Niemi didn’t look very good in Game 5 and Stalock settled things down.

McLellan might have other problems if Marc-Edouard Vlasic is unable to play. The Sharks top defenseman left Game 5 and the Kings were able to take full advantage of his absence. Jeff Carter’s highlight reel power play goal was evidence enough of that.

With how the Kings are clicking and how Jonathan Quick has settled down after a terrible start to the series, it feels like a must-win game for both teams.

Patrick Roy’s biggest challenge as an NHL coach is upon him

Patrick Roy

Things were looking so good for the Colorado Avalanche.

And then they boarded their flight to Minnesota.

Just to recap all things that went wrong for the Avs in Games 3 and 4:

— They lost both of them.
— They only scored once.
— They were outshot by more than a 2-1 margin, 78-34.
— They lost Tyson Barrie for the series and beyond.

And how’s that sitting with them?

“Hanging around the locker room after the game,” wrote the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater last night, “I got the sense that this team is flustered, more than I have at any point on the season.”

This is the adversity the young Avs were bound to run into at some point in the postseason. The good news is, they still have home-ice advantage, and they’re still getting great goaltending from Semyon Varlamov.

“When we have the type of performance that we have from our goaltender, there’s no reason for us to not believe in ourselves, coming back home,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said.

For Roy, the leading candidate to be named coach of the year, preparing his team for Saturday’s Game 5 will be his biggest challenge to date as an NHL bench boss. If the Avs are down mentally, he’ll need to get them back up. And that might not be easy after they were so thoroughly dominated for two straight games.

Roy will also need to figure a way to get his young guns going again. Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny, and Gabriel Landeskog combined for seven goals in Games 1 and 2. Only Ryan O’Reilly managed to score in Minnesota.

Yes, the Avs will have last change at home, which will help. But they won’t have Ilya Bryzgalov to shoot on. Since taking over the goaltending in Game 2, rookie Darcy Kuemper has stopped 47 of 48 shots for the Wild.

“We’re still not testing this goalie enough. We’re making him look good by taking shots from the outside and nobody being in front,” Landeskog said.

All throughout the regular season, there were those who predicted a Colorado collapse. Yet the Avs kept finding ways to win, to the point it became their mantra:


Now, again, with all sorts of so-called experts predicting their demise, they have an opportunity to just find a way.

MacKinnon: Avs ‘shut ourselves down’ in Game 3, not Wild

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche in action against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 4, 2014 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Avalanche 5-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Avalanche didn’t score a goal in Monday’s Game 3 loss to Minnesota — the first time they’ve been shut out since Mar. 21 — and rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon thinks he knows why.

“It wasn’t them that shut us down. I think it was us that shut ourselves down,” MacKinnon said, per the Denver Post. “They played hard, but for us it was more what we weren’t doing than what they were doing.

“We got away from what made us successful.”

Monday’s 1-0 defeat was a stark change of pace for MacKinnon and the Avs. Colorado racked up nine goals in the opening two games of the series, sparked by the MacKinnon-Paul Stastny-Gabriel Landeskog line which combined for six points and 17 points in a pair of wins at the Pepsi Center.

But two mitigating factors from the opening contests are no longer in play. One, games are now being played at the Xcel Energy Center, where Minnesota went 26-10-5 this season. Two, Ilya Bryzgalov is no longer in goal, and he’s the guy the Avs torched for all nine of those goals.

Darcy Kuemper, the guy that replaced Byrzgalov, has been perfect in over 90 minutes of action thus far, stopping all 36 shots while recording the first postseason shutout in Wild franchise history. He also helped silence the Colorado power play on Monday, as the Avs went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

In trying to correct that issue, the Avs are looking inward as well. While Patrick Roy acknowledged the good work Minnesota’s done on the kill — “they’re doing a really good job, and putting a lot of pressure on our forwards,” he said — the Avs head coach also thinks his players are holding back a bit.

“We’re going to try to move that puck quicker,” he explained. “Sometimes, when you’re practicing, guys are afraid to put shots on net. We’re going to try to put more shots on net and have more traffic and make it a little tougher for their goalie.”

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks go for the sweep

San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three

If you missed it, there was plenty of drama last night.

The Blue Jackets and Stars overcame big deficits to tie their respective series against Columbus and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Chicago and St. Louis went to overtime for the third time in four games and this time it was the defending champion Blackhawks that came out on top.

As a result we now have three series that stand at 2-2. We might have two more series tied before the end of the night…

Game 4: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings [Boston leads series 2-1] (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Detroit won the first game thanks to a strong performance by goaltender Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk’s — as San Jose’s Logan Couture put it — filthy move late in the contest. Since then though, it’s been all Boston.

The Bruins outscored Detroit 7-1 over Games 2 and 3. The Red Wings have been to the playoffs for 23 straight campaigns, but they were led there this season by a young and largely inexperienced core, and lately that’s shined through in a bad way. Conversely the Bruins have played like they belong.

Henrik Zetterberg might return for Game 4 and that would certainly be a huge boost to the Red Wings. Either way though, Detroit needs more out of its young core before time runs out.

Game 4: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild [Colorado leads series 2-1] (9:30 p.m. ET, CNBC)

The Avalanche absolutely overwhelmed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the first two games, but they haven’t figured out his replacement, Darcy Kuemper, yet. That resulted in Colorado losing Game 3 because the Wild were given the time to bombard Semyon Varlamov until they finally beat him on their 46th shot on goal.

Colorado has a strong offense and Minnesota can’t count on Kuemper posting another shutout. At the same time, the Avalanche are in a tough spot after the Wild’s Matt Cooke took out defenseman Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit. Both players have now been taken out of the series — Barrie because of a MCL injury; Cooke due to a suspension — but Colorado’s loss will likely sting more.

Cooke was serving as a third line forward while Barrie logged over 20 minutes in each of the Avalanche’s first two playoff games. Barrie was also a key contributor offensively during the regular season with 38 points in 64 games.

The loss has forced the Avalanche to make adjustments, but one surprise change was the call up of 2010 first-rounder Joey Hishon, who will make his NHL debut tonight.

Game 4: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings [San Jose leads series 3-0] (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

San Jose didn’t dominate Game 3 like it did in the first two contests of this series, but the Sharks still came away with an overtime win. Kings coach Darryl Sutter pledged that his squad “won’t go away quietly,” but can they really hope to come back?

Only three teams have ever bounced back from a 3-0 deficit, but it helps that Los Angeles has two players — Mike Richards and Jeff Carter — that previously pulled it off when they were members of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers. The two are living reminders for the Kings that this series is still winnable.

Meanwhile, the Sharks will go for the sweep. They have four chances obviously, but they’re worried about what might happen if they let the Kings retake any ground.

Not for nothing, but the Avs haven’t scored on Kuemper yet

Darcy Kuemper

Through the first two games of the Colorado-Minnesota series, most of the focus was on the Avs’ top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog — a trio that combined for seven goals and 13 points.

But is it worth mentioning all of that production came against Ilya Bryzgalov?

Probably, yes.

Since taking over for Bryz 11:59 into the second period of Game 2, Darcy Kuemper has faced 36 Avalanche shots over the span of 91 minutes — and stopped all 36 shots over those 91 minutes. He recorded the Wild’s first-ever playoff shutout in Game 3 and seems to be a different goalie from the one that struggled at times during the regular season.

“[Kuemper’s] in a different place now,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo said, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “The difference is when we put him into this game tonight, we knew he was ready.”

Now this isn’t to say Kuemper’s been a world-beater. The guys in front of him played a very solid game on Monday, outshooting the Avs by more than 2-to-1 (46-to-22, to be specific) while killing all four Colorado power play opportunities with aplomb.

This does make you wonder, though — how much of Colorado’s early offensive success came from the fact Bryzgalov was the one trying to prevent it?

Do consider what Avs head coach Patrick Roy said prior to the series

Roy made clear before the series started that the Avs have “a lot of info” on Bryzgalov. Avs goalie coach Francois Allaire was Bryzgalov’s goalie coach once upon a time in Anaheim, and Avs backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the Ducks’ No. 1 at the time. 

On this narrative, it’s worth noting that despite being Central Division rivals and playing each other five times, the Avs didn’t see Kuemper once this season. Josh Harding was in goal for the first three games, Niklas Backstrom for the final two.

Finally, there’s how Yeo has handled the switch. While he never openly criticized Bryzgalov’s play — even backing the Russian ‘tender following a rough Game 1 loss — he’s been very vocal about how confident and sound Kuemper looks.

“It’s not just the saves he’s making, but the way he’s making saves,” Yeo said prior to Game 3. “[Kuemper] looked really confident in practice.”

More confident than this, perhaps?