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|9 января 2008 года.
Bryzgalov brings optimism to the desert // АР
By Bill Bernardi
They found Ilya Bryzgalov.
In turn, the 27-year-old Russian goaltender believes he found something exponentially more valuable.
"I think I found a home," Bryzgalov said after stopping 30 shots in the Coyotes' 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. "I feel here it's my best year in the NHL.
"I feel trust. I believe in the guys. The guys believe in me. I think we have a great future if we continue working hard and believe in ourselves."
No, it's not a mirage. Phoenix (22-18-1, 45 points) has won five games in a row and slowly is making noise both in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.
It's a fact not lost on Bryzgalov.
"We win five in a row. It's a good sign, but you don't have to stop, you have to keep moving forward," Bryzgalov said. "We want to play in the playoffs. There are several teams in front of us."
That's quite a change in attitude from last season's club, which finished in last place in the Pacific with a paltry record of 31-46-5. The only thing that saved Phoenix from the league's basement was a horrendous showing by the Philadelphia Flyers.
So, when did it all change for this fledgling franchise?
November 17. The morning, to be precise.
Bryzgalov, who was placed on waivers by the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks the previous night, was claimed by the Coyotes to remedy their goaltending situation.
Relegated behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Bryzgalov had limited opportunities and a bleak outlook.
After coming to Phoenix, where netminders Alex Auld and Mikael Tellqvist had been unimpressive and David Aebischer already had been banished to the minor leagues, it was Bryzgalov's time to shine. Immediately.
So, after a small breakfast, Bryzgalov was thrown immediately into the fire - that being a matinee game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Bryzgalov did not disappoint, endearing himself to his new teammates by stopping all 27 shots he faced in the Coyotes' 1-0 victory.
"I knew it was probably going to be a hard day for him because 24 hours ago, he wasn't sure where he was going to go," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said after that contest. "He gets a call two minutes after 9 (a.m. PST) today saying we got him, and five minutes later, he's getting a call from me telling him he's going to play at one o'clock.
"We knew it was going to be an emotional day for him, but he's a nice young man and he played hard. The Ducks did him a nice favor getting him a chance to play again. Now he gets an opportunity to make our team better, and it's a good situation for us."
As usual, Gretzky was right.
Since the transaction, Bryzgalov has started 22 of 24 games for his new team, posting a 13-8-1 record with a 2.15 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
"We have a lot of respect for Bryzgalov, and he came from a great organization and won a Stanley Cup," Gretzky said. "He played with a guy in Giguere, who was one of the best goaltenders in hockey, and as I said to Bryzgalov, the difference between guys like (Vancouver's Roberto) Luongo and (New Jersey's Martin) Brodeur and (Calgary's Miikka) Kiprusoff and Giguere is, those guys have done it year after year after year.
"He hasn't had that chance. He's had a nice stretch here, but for him to get into that category of those particular players, he has to do it night after night, year after year."
Gretzky is glad the Coyotes stumbled upon Bryzgalov, and also that the netminder has seized his opportunity to be a starter in the NHL.
"It's a nice start for him and a good opportunity to be the head dog, and he's really taking a liking to it," Gretzky said. "I know the players enjoy him being in net. I know as a coach, we love having him in the net."
And Bryzgalov loves the fact that he has found a home.