Ilya Bryzgalov made his first start for the Anaheim Ducks in 2,599 days on Friday.
He probably won’t be keeping the game puck.
‘Cool Bryz’ struggled in his first start with the Ducks this season, surrendering six goals on 31 shots to a less-than-dynamite Ottawa Senators squad in a 6-2 loss. It was Bryzgalov’s second appearance with Anaheim this season after relieving Frederik Andersen in a 6-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier in the week.
And it was the second game in a row he’d rather forget.
The Sens went up 4-0 after two periods and stymied an Anaheim comeback by potting two more on Bryzgalov in the third.
Mika Zibanejad had Ottawa's sixth goal of the night, a softie wrister from the top of the circles that went right through Bryzgalov’s legs. The Ducks defenders moved aside to let Bryzgalov see the shot, and he had no screen. He was simply too slow getting down to stop the puck.
At age 34, Bryzgalov's game looks like it's slipped below the NHL level.
Remember, this is a guy the Minnesota Wild took a long look at in training camp, then decided they didn’t want him. He’s watched more hockey than he’s played in the last two years, after going unsigned to start this season and last.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks are probably second-guessing their decision to bring back their former backup.
Bryzgalov allowed two goals on seven shots against the Leafs on Tuesday, then struggled against Ottawa. And while it’s tough to judge a guy based on less than 100 minutes of play, there are a few factors that work against him.
For starters, his save percentage is well below the NHL standard, despite playing behind the best team in the league. The Ducks have been hampered by injuries and are at the tail end of a long road trip through eastern Canada, but that’s still no excuse for posting a .789 NHL save percentage.
Bryzgalov hasn’t surrendered any laughable goals yet (unlike the one Martin Brodeur let in the other night), but he looks like he just can’t do it anymore.
And with John Gibson making his return from injury in the AHL on Friday, it may not be long before Bryzgalov loses his new backup job.
Minnesota needed Bryzgalov last year, but the Ducks don't. If he continues to struggle, he'll go on waivers and we may never see him in the NHL again.
But again, it's early. He could still regain his form and deliver some solid goaltending - and some more unforgettable quotes.
The NHL is more fun when Bryzgalov is playing in it - and when he's talking to reporters.
Remember this little gem from his Ducks 1.0 days?