Signed in December to a one-year, 2.88 million dollar contract, Ilya Bryzgalov was supposed to bring veteran stability to the Anaheim net, and (mostly) to give starter Frederik Andersen some much needed rest.
In eight appearances, he’s registered a horrendous .847 save percentage and a sky-high 4.19 goals against average. Against Florida on Tuesday night, his struggles hit a maddening zenith.
Blame can never be squarely set on one player’s shoulders, as some in the Ducks blogging community have fairly pointed out. Yet facing the Panthers, Bryzgalov never gave his team a chance to win.
On the first goal, a shot from the point from Dmitry Kulikov, he remained far too deep in his net, especially with no traffic in front. On the second goal, where Aaron Ekblad pinched deep into the Ducks’ zone, the puck went low directly at Bryzgalov’s pads, yet somehow squeeked through the five hole. On the third goal, he was slow to push off towards the point and was beat clean with no traffic in front.
With the exception of the third goal, Bryzgalov let his team down on highly stoppable shots. Conventional logic says that one game shouldn’t be used to judge a player’s season, yet Tuesday’s game was oddly emblematic of Bryzgalov’s 2014-15 campaign.
Ducks Searching For A Backup
Some guy wrote a while back that the Ducks needed to lean more on Bryzgalov for the rest of the season. The premise that Andersen needs rest still holds true, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of winning, which is exactly what’s happening when he’s in net, as his lone win would suggest.
The Ducks have a comfortable lead in the Pacific Division. They still sit on a 14 point cushion, and it’s unlikely that the secretly terrible Calgary Flames, or the up-and-down San Jose Sharks will catch up. Yet a string of bad luck or bad goaltending (and vice-versa for other Pacific foes), can tilt the table against the Ducks.
John Gibson looked calm and collected in spot duty. The goals that he allowed were largely terrible defensive play and an astounding display of skill by Aleksander Barkov. The compact and tight nature of his technique that initially made him a hit on the international stage was apparent. Perhaps the Ducks should give Gibson a trial run during Andersen’s absence.
That still wouldn’t provide a long term solution though. Gibson needs to play massive minutes, and Norfolk is the only place where that will happen. Bryzgalov was one of the better free agent options available, so that avenue is potentially exhausted.
Peter Budaj remains buried in the minors, and could be a viable option. The way Bryzgalov has been playing, the Ducks need to explore every option to ensure that they don’t continue playing Frederik Andersen nearly every game, a legitimate key to their playoff success.