“I will try to find peace in my soul to play in this city,” Ilya Bryzgalov once said while tending goal for the Philadelphia Flyers. One wonders whether the Russian goalie will find peace in his soul to play in Edmonton, a place he once referred to as the North Pole.
Alas, the Edmonton Oilers have called Bryzgalov up from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League and will hope against hope that he’ll solve the team’s woes in the crease.
During his conditioning run in the AHL, he turned aside 25 of 26 shots in one game and had an abysmal performance in another. With the proverbial cobwebs taken care of, however, the Oilers are hoping that he’ll be able to bring some of his goaltending prowess to the big club.
“I think there was a little bit of rust that he was able to shake off last night, and what a difference tonight,” said Barons defenceman Taylor Fedun in describing the difference between the two games. “He was swallowing pucks up, wasn’t giving out rebounds. He looked a lot more calm and collected in the net, and was playing the puck well for him as well.”
“We [Bryz and Oilers goalie coach Frederic Chabot] worked hard all week to try and catch the train,” said the netminder. “We’ll see where we are and where my game is. Last night was kind of a clumsy game, as expected, and tonight was much better. I feel much more comfortable in the net. Still, there were some things we need to be working at in the future, and the week is ahead of us and that’s what we have to focus on.”
Last Friday, Bryz inked a $2 million contract with the Oilers and this conditioning stint was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
Now that he’s in the NHL again, his first game back should be against the Columbus Blue Jackets. And that pits him against Sergei Bobrovsky, who the Flyers traded away to ensure that Bryzgalov would be the top banana in Philly. Bobrovsky went on to tag a Vezina Trophy, while Bryzgalov and his bear were bought out by the Flyers. Funny how life works, eh?
The biggest problem for Bryz in Edmonton likely won’t be the cold or the lack of social life, though. It’ll be the fact that the Oilers stink defensively. They currently allow about 31 shots on goal a game and have nowhere near the defensive system he’s used to, so he’ll be seeing an awful lot of rubber.
The Oilers are hoping that the gamble will pay off, obviously. And Bryzgalov is just hoping to fit in somewhere on this “small tiny-like dot in the universe.”