Something occurred to me while watching the game last night, particularly after each Detroit goal - Ilya Bryzgalov might be putting too much pressure on himself in this series. Now before we dive in, don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming anything from Game 1 on Ilya Bryzgalov. The Phoenix Coyotes didn't do enough to win that game (::cough::0-for-6 powerplay::cough::). No, it was the way Bryz seemed to get dejected and drop his head every time the Red Wings scored...it was just a bit disheartening.
In every preview of this series, the theme was the same - the one BIG advantage that the Coyotes had was in net where Bryz is clearly the superior goalie to Jimmy Howard by objective measures. Unfortunately, through eight head-to-head match-ups in the playoffs, Howard has been just a bit better, including recording the only shutout. The Coyotes need Bryz to be solid in this series - if he can win a few games, all the better, but it's not necessary. What they can't afford are mental meltdowns.
By all accounts, Bryz bounces back from a bad game strong, but I think during the second period last night, Bryz had trouble getting over that first goal and the momentum shift that came with it. The second goal just wasn't a good goal no matter how you dice it. Was it well placed? Sure. Was it slightly screened off the stick? Probably? Was it still a 75 foot wrister without anyone standing in the crease? Yes, and those shots need to be stopped.
So what's the issue? It would be easy to say that Bryz just can't handle the playoff pressure, but (1) that just doesn't fit with Bryz's known personality; and (2) he's been great in the playoffs in the past while with Anaheim. In Bryz's first postseason experience with Anaheim in 2006 he posted a 6-4 record in 11 games with 1.46 GAA, .944 save percentage and 3 shutouts. The next season, Bryz was 3-1 in 5 games with 2.25 GAA, .922 save percentage.
By comparison, Bryz last year had a 3-4 record in the 7 games, 3.44 GAA, .906 save percentage. Obviously last night wasn't any better. I don't think it's all about playing Detroit, but I don't know what competition Bryz was facing when with Anaheim and I'm not willing to do the research to figure it out.
What I do think is that Bryz is going into these games a bit with the attitude that he needs to get a shutout for the Coyotes to win. I don't know why he has this attitude (or really if he does), but that's the impression I've gotten when I see his body language after allowing the first goal (or last night's second goal particularly). By the time the third goal went in, the Coyotes (and Bryz) seemed defeated.
Now I know it was only one game, and I'm certainly not throwing in the towel. But the one thing that I know about this series, and this postseason in general, it's that the Coyotes will only go as far as Bryz can take them. If he's not the best player on this team (and he wasn't last night), it's going to be another disappointing series for the Desert Dogs.