It’s no secret around the league that goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has a quirky side to his character. His playing days in Philadelphia highlighted this fact when he was a hit on the HBO series 24/7 and it could be argued that the show didn’t help his career any when the world got a first hand look at his odd behavior, at times. Needless to say his subpar play was a bigger factor in his fall from glory.
But for the Edmonton Oilers, signing Bryzgalov may have done more than help stabilize the crease or push Devan Dubnyk to perform on a higher level. The Russian netminder may have been what the doctor ordered for the team’s dressing room atmosphere, something you can’t put a price tag on.
Before Bryzgalov, lied a team that was struggling to score goals on home ice let alone win hockey games. They were as tight as freshly wound yo-yo, pressing and trying to do too much when the simple plan was the right solution. Victims of holding their sticks so tight that splinters were flaking off, this Oilers group needed something to take their mind off their losing ways.
Call it a coincidence, but when Bryzgalov was signed it was then that Dubnyk started to play better, leading the team to three straight victories.
Now we hear from head coach Dallas Eakins that Bryzgalov is “keeping it light” and has fit right in to the room with his new teammates. Eakins also discussed how he approached Bryzgalov to mentor fellow countrymen Anton Belov and Nail Yakupov, both whom are in the early stages of their NHL careers.
The mentorship will be noticed by how well Belov and Yakupov play on the ice, but the character in Bryzgalov that will hopefully allow the Oilers to remain light and loose won’t be as evident considering it’s mainly a behind the scenes act.
But one thing will become evident and that is if this team wins more hockey games than they lose in the coming weeks, you’ll have to wonder what effect Ilya Bryzgalov has had on this team.
Of course if the Oilers continue to struggle then this is all for not but for now, it’s worth keeping an eye on how this team performs in the near future. It could make the Byrzgalov signing look like a steal for a team that needed both a moral and energy lift. Leave it to the quirky Russian to provide both of those.