We're kicking off our playoff coverage by breaking down the Coyotes each day this week. Hopefully, the Wings break them down too. Ah, lame joke yes. Anyway, each day we're gonna break down different aspects of the Coyotes and then compare the Wings and clue you in to who we think has the edge.
Bryzgalov has been nothing short of a godsend for the Coyotes this season. The big framed goalie has been solid all season long and has earned the calls that have him in the Vezina discussion. He finished the regular season with a 2.29 GAA (6th behind Jimmy Howard at 5) and a .920 save percentage.
Bryzgalov was mired in the Anaheim system for a while behind Jean Sebastian Giguere before finally coming to Phoenix last season. In his first season with the Coyotes, he had a high GAA (2.98) and won 26 games while dropping 31. But that was also on a Phoenix team that ended up 3rd to last in the West. Last year's Coyotes (under coach Wayne Gretzky) were a -44 in goal differential and just didn't have the same look that this year's edition does.
His positives: Bryzgalov is incredibly disciplined and doesn't overcommit on passing or shooting plays. He's solid on his feet and quick to the ice and is overall very solid in his crease. He squares up to shooters very well and doesn't give up as many rebounds as the Red Wings would hope for.
How to beat him: Bryzgalov seems to be prone to goals on movement. If the Red Wings can get him moving back and forth in the crease on plays or put Tomas Holmstrom in his crease to block his vision, they will have success.
Detroit Red Wings:
Jimmy Howard wasn't supposed to be thrust into a situation like this. He was supposed to learn under the wing of Chris Osgood and eventually take the reigns. But things fell to shit quicker than people expected and Ozzie looked like he wouldn't be able to win that many games for the Wings. Perhaps it was panic or just the right decision, either way Howard has taken the crease and never looked back. His name is up at the top of the Calder Trophy nominations and is even in the mix for Vezina or insome eyes, the Hart Trophy.
The big concern about Howard is his playoff experience and the fact that he and I have the same amount of NHL postseason minutes: 0. That's supposed to be a big burden and load of pressure on his back. How's being shoved into the spotlight on the biggest hockey stage in the United States and being expected to salvage a burning ship for pressure? Howard has handled everything thrown at him this season and has emerged as a true fan favorite.
His positives: The amount of shots on net don't seem to bother him (two 50+ save performances) and he's very good at squaring up to shooters. He's very quick moving laterally across his crease. He's playing with a mountain of confidence and coming out to challenge shooters. His glove hand has gone from average to pretty damn good over the season and he's been fast to the ice while maintaining proper pad positioning while down.
How to beat him: Jimmy's biggest problem all season has been rebound control. He's greatly improved it over the course of the season but it still plagues him at times. If they Coyotes play tight around the net and hunt for rebounds they can make Jimmy pay.
Phoenix-Jason LaBarbera. 45 career wins, 49 career losses, 2.85 GAA.
Detroit-Chris Osgood. You know, the guy that has won some of those Stanley Cup thingies and 396 career wins, 2.49 GAA, .905 SV%.
Edge: Phoenix. Bryzgalov is going to be relied on to steal a few games for the Coyotes and he's sure going to face a lot of rubber from the Detroit attack. However, just because I gave Bryzgalov the edge doesn't mean that Howard is going to be picked apart by the Coyotes.