Crashing the Crease: O Bryz, Where Art Thou?

Bryzgalov, being Bryzgalov.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s KHL season is underway with CSKA Moscow, the modern-day incarnation of the Red Army hockey club. Since his arrival, much has been made about his being a healthy scratch, and concern abounds about having lost two games while yielding 4 goals in each.

However, has it really been all that bad? Is he being scratched because he is terrible? Just what is going on over there?

Alarms started ringing after word came back that CSKA lost to Traktor 4-3. Most North American highlight packages showed few, if any, of the goals against Bryz, therefore making it difficult to judge by anything other than the stats line – which is never flattering to a goaltender in a tough loss, regardless of his level of play.

Traktor’s first goal of the game.

Any time a player is allowed to cut into the heart of the slot and rip a shot high, it’s hard to blame the goaltender. This one is a highlight reel goal – great move into the slot, and a very well placed snipe.

Traktor’s second goal.

This one is a pretty lethal one-timer that Bryz was incredibly close to having. The shot was a rocket and picked the top corner. Maybe if Bryz is out a little further he has this one, he was in pretty solid position and it gets by him anyway. Goals like this are a tough pill to swallow.

Traktor’s third goal.

Another rocket, this time off the faceoff, just gets blasted high stick side. Any time someone can step into a shot like this from the circle right off the drop of the puck, it could mean trouble.

Traktor’s fourth (and final) goal.

This goal comes off of a very tricky play. Bryz reads the far post wrap and slides to the side to cover that post, and makes the mistake of not following closely enough and missing the turnaround pass. Again, this was a very slick play by Traktor’s forwards and Bryz would have been hard pressed to get back to the other post in time regardless. It would have required a spectacular save to pull it off.

In analyzing these goals, one thing becomes pretty clear: Bryz was not terrible in this game, even if 4 goals on 30 shots may sound poor. All four of these goals would likely have found their way in on anybody. The two slap shots were absolute rockets, and came off of one-timers, and the goal from the slot was a thing of beauty while the back-door passing play was an equally great hockey play.

As always, it would be nice to see Bryz make a couple highlight reel saves on some more of these plays, but consider this: Bryz did not get the benefit of attending a training camp with CSKA this season. He jumped onto a team that had games underway, and is facing competition that is in proper game shape.

Is his current 0-2-0 record with 4.02 GAA and only 85.7 SV% somewhat concerning? Sure. But given how CSKA has played in front of him defensively and the fact that Bryzgalov is essentially in preseason mode while his opponents are at the quarter season mark, it’s not cause for alarm.

Other observations:

In watching the full highlights from that game, there are some solid saves by Bryz and also some nice lateral movements.

On this play, Bryz demonstrates some nice lateral control and recovery to make a save off a broken play. He was bad at that last year.

Also, it seems Bryz has switched his pads to Bauer this season. Bryz has been wearing Vaughns for the past several seasons.