Since leaving the Phoenix Coyotes after the 2010-11 season, things have/had been quite strange for Bryzgalov. The Russian netminder has said some strange things, has/had struggled between the pipes, has played for a few different teams, and has/had been disregarded by the rest of the league.
In league circles and according to most hockey pundits and fans alike, Bryzgalov was no longer a solid NHL goaltender. Sure, many thought he could come in and may be play well for a bad hockey club where games really didn't matter as much, but other than that, most felt that Bryzgalov had nothing to offer as a starting goaltender for an NHL hockey club.
Fast forward to today and Bryzgalov, 33, has his current club, the Minnesota Wild, in the postseason and preparing for their first round match-up with the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, the Wild play a sound defensive game, but since joining the team, the Wild and the rest of the league have seen Bryzgalov return to being a more than solid goaltender.
In 12 games with the Wild this year, Bryzgalov went 7-1-3 with a 2.12 goals against average, a .911 save percentage and three shutouts. It was Bryzgalov's strong play down the stretch that helped the team cement their spot as one of the Western Conference's wild card clubs.
It is never easy for a player to come to a new team and do well right away. Bryzgalov proved that notion wrong and showed his new team exactly what he was capable of doing.
In an article on NHL.com, Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason spoke to hockey scribe Dan Myers about knowing exactly what to expect from Bryzgalov on a nightly basis.
Bryzgalov has come to Minnesota and has played with confidence and poise between the pipes. He does a good job of challenging shooters, controlling his rebounds, making the big save when his team needed it the most and more importantly, winning hockey games.
"A pretty low-maintenance guy; a guy who has played 400-some games in this League," Mason, the goalie coach, said. "He knows what he is doing."
In his 12 games with the Wild this year, Bryzgalov was able to beat some good hockey clubs. With Bryzgalov between the pipes, the Wild were able to beat the likes of the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes,and the Detroit Red Wings.
In that same article mentioned above, Wild head coach Mike Yeo had nothing but praise for his new starting goaltender.
Sure, no one will ever forget the things that Bryzgalov has said or even forget about the times he struggled between the pipes. With that said, the NHL is all about the present and right now, Bryzgalov is back to being a solid goaltender and him and his Wild teammates are in the postseason with a chance to compete for hockey's Holy Grail.
"I think it's great what [Wild general manager] Chuck [Fletcher] did at the trade deadline," Yeo said. "Recognizing the importance of it and finding a guy who would fit in with us. And it's great on Bryz the way he was able to get ready and stay ready and get used to our team."
In the end, that is all that matters.