On eve of Game 3, Avs insist they havent tested Bryzgalov yet
DENVER The practice looked like Christmastime at Rockefeller Plaza. At one point, there were 22 skaters, two coaches and two pucks in the zone.Talk about traffic.The question facing the Colorado Avalanche is whether they can put enough bodies in front of Anaheims red-hot rookie goaltender Tuesday night to make the Western Conference semifinals reasonably competitive. If not, Ilya Bryzgalov could make history in Game 3.The 25-year-old Russian already is the first rookie since Torontos Frank McCool in 1945 to post three straight shutouts in the playoffs. Hes gone 229 minutes, 42 seconds without giving up a goal, longest by a rookie in league playoff history and fourth longest by any goalie. George Hainsworth tops that list with a stretch of 270:08 for Montreal in 1930.Hes played well, but I dont think weve tested him at the same rate weve tested goalies all year, Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. We just havent gotten a lot of traffic in front of him. … Weve got to get more quality chances and higher-quality chances.So, Quenneville dusted off his flood-the-ice drill Monday that had players and coaches scrambling all over the place.Youve got to loosen it up every once in a while and I think that was the main intention of that drill, defenseman John Michael-Liles said.The free-for-all set the tone for a loose but intense workout.Its still a game, Colorado forward Ian Laperriere said. Just go out and relax, play with the puck and have fun. And hope it carries over into the game. Maybe relaxing will provide us with a different result. We just need to do the simple things. Put the puck on net and go hard after rebounds. Fancy plays havent worked.Not against Bryzgalov (pronounced breez-GAH-lahf), who has stopped 92 goals during his scoreless streak. Fifty-one of those were by Colorado.He hasnt faced a lot of shots or had enough traffic in front of him, Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk contended. We made his job pretty easy.Not that anybodys dissing the Ducks young goalie, Avs captain Joe Sakic said.When weve had our opportunities and scoring chances, hes come up big and made some good saves, Sakic said. But also they are playing well in front of him and on the other side we havent played up to our abilities either.Bryzgalov isnt offended. He wants to share the credit.My teammates have helped me a lot, Bryzgalov said. The people in front of me are giving me a good look at shots. They have been blocking shots before they get to me and limiting the number of scoring chances. When I do stop a shot, my teammates are getting the rebounds. I need that. I need my team. Without my teammates, I wouldnt get the shutouts.Ducks coach Randy Carlyle attributes the three consecutive shutouts, beginning with a Game 7 win at Calgary in the quarterfinals, to the Ducks teamwork.I look at the goaltender as just one member of our hockey club, Carlyle said. A lot has been made of it. Ilya has been called upon to make some difficult stops and some key stops at critical times, but the bottom line is he is one member of our hockey club.Deciphering Bryzgalov starts with decoding the little things that didnt go Colorados way in California. The Avs have to control the puck, flood the crease and make the 6-foot-3 Bryzgalov move a little.Hes big, but if hes big and can see the puck hes effective, Quenneville said. I dont think were doing a good enough job of making it tough for him to find the puck and were not getting into the loose stuff.Backing up their notion that Bryzgalovs success stems from their own poor play, the Avs concentrated on fundamentals Monday rather than admitting that theyre facing a hot goalie.The game of hockey is doing the little things right, center Pierre Turgeon said. No turnovers. No 3-on-2s or 2-on-1s. Those are the little things that make a big difference. Hes playing well but at the same time weve got to test him. Weve got to focus on what were supposed to do out there instead of thinking, Hes good.Left wing Alex Tanguay said the Avs will find their rhythm and figure out Bryzgalov.Theres enough skill in this dressing room to get some goals, he said. Its just a matter of time.
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