Starting Monday, May 26, Wild.com will host the Top Plays of the Year Tournament, presented by Dairy Queen. That will give fans the chance to vote on their favorite play of the year. It’s no secret that over here on Wild.com we love helping select the top plays each week for fans to vote on. Since there were a handful of great plays from the Wild’s Stanley Cup Playoff appearance, and you really can’t throw them into a regular-season Top Plays Tourney, Managing Editor Mike Doyle is counting down his Top 5 Playoff Plays. His third-favorite play comes from Ilya Bryzgalov.
No. 3: Bryz Stones Sharp
The Wild’s goaltending merry-go-round was well documented this season. On the eve of the National Hockey League’s Trade Deadline Day, the Wild acquired Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a fourth-round pick. At the time, it was regarded as a “just-in-case” move, as Darcy Kuemper looked like he’d grabbed the reigns as the Wild’s No. 1 netminder heading down the stretch, while Niklas Backstrom struggled through injury and Josh Harding continued to battle multiple sclerosis. Then, Kuemper suffered an injury during morning skate on March 31. Bryzgalov went to work that night with an 18-save win against the Los Angeles Kings, and posted a 7-1-3 overall record, .911 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average down the stretch to help Minnesota earn the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Bryzgalov got off to a shaky playoff start, dropping the first game in Colorado and was relieved by Kuemper in Game 2. Bryzgalov came in relief in the dramatic Game 7 win when Kuemper was again sidelined by injury and played the entire Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
In Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild held a 3-2 lead on the Hawks leading to the third play in the countdown. At the end of the first period, Bryzgalov allowed a soft goal by Patrick Sharp. Midway through the second with the Wild pressuring Sharp had another chance, this time on a clean breakaway. The Hawks regular-season goal leader made a forehand-backhand move, but Bryzgalov went into a full split to make a right pad save. Later in the contest, Bryzgalov solidified his spot in the countdown by stuffing Jeremy Morin on consecutive attempts.
In Game 6, Sharp had another breakaway and this time tried a different move, going to his forehand, but with the same result. While it was a good save, it didn’t top the full-extension stop Bryzgalov made in Game 4, halting the Hawks’ chances of gaining any momentum and resulting in a Wild win to even the series.