Skip to main content

Coyotes confident Bryzgalov will solve Wings

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- The numbers jump off the page when looking at the playoff statistics of Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

Overall, he's been stellar. In 24 career playoff starts, Bryzgalov is 12-10 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

The numbers while playing for the Coyotes, however, are a lot worse -- and have one red-and-white winged wheel in common. Bryzgalov has now started eight playoff games for Phoenix and all eight have been against the Detroit Red Wings -- including a 4-2 loss on Wednesday night in the opener of the Coyotes' Western Conference quarterfinal series.

In those eight starts, Bryzgalov has a 3.50 GAA and .904 save percentage. Still, Bryzgalov said he's anxious to get back out there against the Red Wings for Saturday afternoon's Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena (1 p.m. NBC, CBC).

"I feel very confident," Bryzgalov said after Friday's practice. "Sometimes they find a way to score the goals. Sometimes not. It's just hockey."

It's also the Red Wings, and even Bryzgalov admits they can make a goalie's life hard by continually keeping bodies in front of him and crashing the net.

"It's always difficult," he said. "It's never been easy if you ask any goalies in this League. This team, they have skills and they really go hard around the net. They drive the net. They always make my life miserable in front of the net -- always somebody, one or two players in front."

The guy who most often gets the credit for being parked in front of the crease is Tomas Holmstrom, who was again right there on Bryzgalov's doorstep in Game 1. Yet, as Bryzgalov points out, there are other Red Wings willing to battle in those "hard areas" of the ice in order to screen goalies and pounce on rebounds.

"It's not only Holmstrom," Bryzgalov said. "It's other guys too, like (Danny Cleary) or (Johan Franzen). There's always somebody there. You have to battle through and find the puck."

Thus far, Bryzgalov has struggled finding it against the Wings in the playoffs. None of his teammates or coaches, however, is even close to hitting the panic button. Bryzgalov is still one of the best goalies in the League and will probably show it in this series.

His teammates also vowed to help him more in front.

"We don't want to rely on just him, but he is our best player," Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "We do rely on him quite a bit, but having said that, we don't want to put the onus on him to stop 50 shots a night to win us a game. We need to play well in all three zones and lighten the load off him."

That would probably lighten the load off Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, who is expecting a big rebound from his team and Bryzgalov in Game 2.

"We need him to respond well," Tippett said. "I think he was like the rest of our group -- probably not as sharp as he wanted to be (in Game 1). I think he'll come back with a very strong game."

Bryzgalov's regular-season numbers against Detroit suggest that could happen.

He started all four games against the Red Wings and went 2-1-1, only allowing more than three goals once in a 5-4 Coyotes shootout win on Mar. 5 in Phoenix.

He also posted solid numbers overall in the regular season, with a 2.48 GAA, .921 save percentage, seven shutouts and a 36-20-10 record in 68 games. The postseason numbers against Detroit are sort of alarming, but the Coyotes are putting more faith in the larger sample size of Bryzgalov's career.

"He's the guy we count on every night," defenseman Keith Yandle said. "We count on him to basically win us games, because we're not going to score three or four goals a game. We rely on him pretty heavily and that's why he's been our best player all year. He wins us a lot of games."

He's also a fierce competitor, which Coyotes captain Shane Doan is hoping will result in a hot streak soon.

"Hopefully Bryz takes it as a personal challenge to be better than their goalie," Doan said. "I think he's the best goalie in the League. I've said it over and over. When he's on, I'd take him over anybody in the League. He's our goalie and I'm pretty thankful for that. Hopefully he takes it personally."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.