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Playoff Preview: Goaltending

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If you're thinking to yourself, "Self, this looks a lot like last year's playoff preview" well you're absolutely right. I used the same basic format from last year, and wrote it to apply to this year.

Phoenix Coyotes:

Ilya Bryzgalov

#30 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes



Jun 22, 1980

2010 - Ilya Bryzgalov 68 4060 36 20 168 2.48 2125 1957 .921 7

Bryzgalov's wins are down and his GAA is up from a year ago, but make no mistake, he's an incredible goalie. Bryzgalov is probably the single biggest reason for Phoenix's success (aside from head coach Dave Tippett) as the Coyotes give up the third most shots per game, yet have one of the lower goals against numbers in the league. Bryzgalov's 2.48 GAA is up from 2.29 last year, on about 30 minutes less of playing time. So is he easier to crack this year than last? Not likely, and the Red Wings will still need to work to put pucks past him.

Follow the jump for the rest on Bryzgalov, Jimmy Howard and the verdict.

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. (That stayed exactly the same from last year, sorry). Bryzgalov is very capable of carrying a team and shutting down an offense, and for a team (Detroit) that has relied on high goals for this season it's a little daunting.

How to beat him: Bryzgalov is a large guy and that said he naturally blocks a lot of the crease. Add in his good footspeed and squaring up to shooters and it's hard to beat him. The Wings have to get traffic in front of him and get the puck moving as much as possible on him. Like I said, he moves well but no goalie in the NHL moves perfectly and getting him out of position and uncomfortable with the amount of movement he has to make will wear him out during a series. He's also had moments in the regular season where he's been too nonchalant, but that shouldn't be a problem in the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings:

Jimmy Howard

#35 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings



Mar 26, 1984

2010 - Jimmy Howard 63 3615 37 17 168 2.79 1830 1662 .908 2

Like Bryzgalov, Howard's GAA is up this year, but the majority of the time it seems like it's truly not his fault. I can't even begin to count the defensive breakdowns in front of Howard that have left him SOL. He's been a solid presence this year for the Red Wings and even earned himself a new contract during the year. Howard's the future (short-term at least) for the Red Wings in net and he has the chance to solidify that with a solid postseason.

His positives: Howard has improved on the majority of the technical aspects of goaltending this year. He has worked on his rebound control and although it's not perfect, it's better as he's kicking his rebounds out to less dangerous spots. His glove is becoming one of his biggest assets and he's not afraid to flash it around to make saves. His lateral movement has improved and he's made some truly incredible saves because of that (ask Joel Ward). He does a good job of keeping his pads down as he moves across the crease and has good angles on most shots. Howard's confidence is even bigger than last year and he thrives on playing like he's the boss.

How to beat him: Like last year, Howard's problems stem from rebound control and consistency. He is far better than last year on the rebound front, but he's also had struggles with some soft goals this season. If the Coyotes can play aware after shots and get to rebounds, they may be able to capitalize. Howard's also had games where he's just out there flopping around more than anything and he just doesn't start out "in form". The most common way teams scored on Howard this year was from complete defensive breakdowns so moving the puck will create those chances.


Phoenix-Jason LaBarbera--7-6-3, 3.26 GAA, .909 SV%, 2 SO
Detroit-Joey MacDonald--5-5-3, 2.58 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO.

Edge: Phoenix, again. It is really hard for me to pick against Howard, but the same thing goes for Bryzgalov, just for different reasons. Bryzgalov is a big challenge for the Red Wings, but I think as Ilya goes, so do the Coyotes. If the Red Wings can make him work hard each game and get goals on him, I think the Coyotes will have trouble trying to outscore the Red Wings. But as far as a head-to-head match-up, Phoenix has the edge.