TORONTO – Ilya Bryzgalov is having an all-star calibre season and helping the Phoenix Coyotes finally get a taste of on-ice success.
The Togliatti, Russia native backstopped his team to a 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs Wednesday in Toronto. It was Bryzgalov’s 19th win of the season, third in the NHL.
Entering the game, Bryzgalov, 29, also sat third in the NHL with a 1.98 goals-against average and fifth in save percentage at .928.
“He’s been incredible,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “He’s been absolutely unbelievable.”
Bryzgalov’s stats actually dropped somewhat Wednesday after he allowed three Toronto goals on 30 shots, but he there was just one shot he’d like back.
“It was a good shot, but it was my mistake,” he said of Alexei Ponikarovsky’s third-period wrist shot, which beat Bryzgalov high to the glove side. “Tonight I gave up a bad goal, last game I gave one up, and it’s not good.”
The odd bad goal aside, Bryzgalov’s play has been stellar this season. But he spreads the credit for Phoenix’s successful start around.
“We’ve got structure, we don’t give up many dangerous scoring chances,” Bryzgalov said, crediting his team’s game plan. “And it helps, it helps me and the entire team.”
The game against Toronto marked Bryzgalov’s 30th appearance of the season and 14th straight start for Phoenix.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’m mentally tired a little bit, but I’m probably not going to play tomorrow (at Columbus). I’ll recharge the battery and go in again.”
A recharged Bryzgalov is a must if Phoenix is going to continue holding down a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference.
While he may be humble about his play, but his teammates understand just how important he’s been to the surprisingly successful Coyotes this season.
“He’s been shutting teams down, we’ve been winning games 1-0, 2-1,” said Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle, who had three assists against the Leafs. “He’s huge, for sure. He’s making us feel at ease, he’s giving us a little bit of breathing room.”