Ilya Bryzgalov: The keeper of the Wild's playoff keys


We posted earlier today a roundup of first-round playoff predictions, and most of the hockey world wasn't very nice to the Minnesota Wild.

But let's get real. Any hot goalie can lead a team through the playoffs and all the way to the Stanley Cup. It happened two years ago when Jonathan Quick, who is now quite possibly the best goalie in the world, became a mobile brick wall to help make Los Angeles the Kings of the Cup.

Ilya Bryzgalov has a chance to become the Wild's mobile brick wall in goal. Since coming to Minnesota in a trade with Edmonton, the 33-year-old veteran has gone 7-1-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average and three shutouts. Not a bad resume for man that's played in only 12 games with the Wild.

Michael Russo of the Star Tribune unveiled today a feature column on Bryzgalov, noting how the former Vezina Trophy (NHL's top goalie) finalist has become not only a leader on the ice, but a locker room favorite.

“The fun that he’s brought, the attitude he’s brought, has been great,” Zach Parise said. “You really want to win for him. You see how excited he got after the shootout win [against Boston to clinch a playoff spot] and how excited he is when we win, you really want to play well in front of him.”

While his current teammates love him, some of his former teammates and media members that have covered him aren't so fond of his sometimes brash personality. The latest example came Wednesday in Colorado, when he was reportedly rude to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post. Here are the details.

Bryzgalov was unprofessional to me and others in the room and he’s rumored to be a jerk to pretty much any media person he talks to. That’s acceptable behavior in other pro sports, but not hockey.

He asked that I wait to interview him until he took off all his equipment, which was fair. But then he began looking at me, presumably waiting for a question, without taking off his pads, and then said (jokingly, I’m sure) that he wouldn’t talk until after the series. OK, now we’re playing games. My only question was about facing off against his Russian countryman, Semyon Varlamov, who is up for the Hart (MVP) and Vezina (best goalie) trophies.

After playing more games — he questioned whether I would ask the same question if two Canadian goalies were opposing each other — I mentioned the fact that he and Varlamov have significant Olympic and World Championship experience for Russia and some fans might find this matchup interesting.

While Chambers wasn't pleased with Bryzgalov's attitude, Wild forward Matt Cooke thinks the Russian goalie's personality is exactly what Minnesota needs.

"He's been exactly what we need," Cook said, according to the Pioneer Press. "I've said that (he's smart). There's a language barrier, obviously, but he's got a pretty good idea of what's going on."

Whether he's rude, focused, jovial or any other emotion doesn't really matter. All that matters is he's able to help the Wild win games.

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