Bryzgalov: Fond Memories of Phoenix
Thursday night will mark the first time that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will have an opportunity to play against his former team.
Bryzgalov spent four seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes before signing with the Flyers this offseason for a mammoth nine-year, $51 million contract.
While he may have left the sandy plains of Arizona for greener pastures in Philadelphia, Bryzgalov certainly has some fond memories of his time with the team.
And he certainly owes the club a great deal of gratitude for the chance he got there.
During his time in the desert, Bryzgalov amassed a record of 130-93-27, registered a .917 save% with a 2.48 GAA and led the Coyotes into the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
The crowning moment of his four-year stint came in the 2009-10 season when Bryzgalov recorded a career high in wins (42) as well as a career low in loses (20), which earned him a nomination for the Vezina Trophy.
While Bryzgalov established himself as an ‘elite’ goaltender with the Coyotes, his time on the West coast was not limited to Phoenix.
The Anaheim Ducks selected him with the 44th overall pick in the 2000 entry draft and he spent five seasons with the their AHL affiliate in Cincinnati before joining the team as a backup for the 2005-06 season.
Bryzgalov played sparingly with the Ducks, winning more times than he lost (25-23-7) but never had a real opportunity to establish himself.
During the team’s 2007 Stanley Cup run, Bryzgalov filled in for injured starter J.S. Giguerre, winning three of four starts in the Quarter Final. Despite his impressive performance, the team decided to extend Giguerre and acquired Swiss prospect Jonas Hiller, leaving Bryzgalov as the odd man out.
Unable to find a trade partner, the Ducks were forced to waive Bryzgalov. Phoenix subsequently claimed him and gave him the opportunity that Anaheim did not.
The opportunity clearly paid off in a big way this offseason.
To this point, Bryzgalov’s time in Philadelphia has mirrored his up-and-down career path.
After beginning the season 3-0-1, Bryzgalov registered consecutive losses in his next four appearances, including a relief performance against the Winnipeg Jets where he allowed four goals on only 10 shots.
Bryzgalov has quickly bounced back.
In his last five starts, he has gone 4-0-1 with a .939 save% and a 1.80 GAA. Over that span, he has held opponents to two goals or less in each game.
Bryzgalov and the Flyers will look to add to those impressive totals on Thursday night against the Coyotes.
But it would be hard to imagine that it will be business as usual for Bryzgalov.
“I don’t know,” he replied to reporters. “I guess [I] will be a little stressed to see the Phoenix Coyotes on the other side.”
Bryzgalov had little trouble playing against the Ducks for the first time. In fact, he won his first three starts against them. But Phoenix is a completely different situation. Without his time in the desert, Bryzgalov would not be where he is today.
It’s understandable why he would feel that way.
“I can’t forget the time I played there. It was good years.,” Bryzgalov said to reporters. “lots of good friends that worked in the organization. It is going to be a very special game.”