Ilya Bryzgalov


In a 2004 interview with Soviet Sport reporter Mark Leyderman, Mighty Ducks’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of Anaheim’s then starting tender Jean- Sebastien Giguere, “I don’t believe that Giguere is better than me. I don’t doubt that I would be able to compete with him for the top spot in Anaheim. I carefully studied his game and he doesn’t show anything special that I can’t do.”

Bryzgalov’s bravado was startling, since he was playing in the AHL and Giguere had anchored the Ducks during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning the tournament’s MVP award. This year, Giguere’s seventh, he was 30-15-0 over 60 games with a 2.66 GAA and a .911 SV%. But Giguere had some health issues during the regular season and that meant Bryzgalov got some substantial NHL experience.

The rookie goalie from Russia did well going 13-12 in 31 games, with a 2.51 GAA and a .910 SV%. But he was back on the bench for the playoffs until he replaced Giguere after the first period of game five against first round opponent Calgary. Bryzgalov anchored the team through the rest of the series, winning the final two games and then took the Ducks through a four-game battle against Colorado. Now he’s waiting to play the winner of the San Jose-Edmonton series.

Bryzgalov is the hottest thing on the ice with opponents melting in his presence. In this year’s playoffs, he’s 6-1 with a .967 SV% and a 0.87 GAA. Those last two stats are the best in the playoffs, as is his three shutouts!

Spectacular saves, nerves of steel, veins filled with ice and athletic play denote his Stanley Cup performance thus far. What does he have to say about it all? In a recent article he observed, “Now the coach has given me chance to play, and I have to stop the puck. That is not different. I think I have proved this season that I can play.”

He’s certainly done that and more in this year’s post-season tournament. Of course Giguere would certainly like another shot at proving himself. It’s doubtful that Bryzgalov will give him that chance.

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