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A series, maybe even a franchise, depend on Ilya Bryzgalov

Heading into the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs everyone, to a
man, knew the
Phoenix Coyotes would go only as far as goaltender Ilya
Bryzgalov could
take them.

At this rate, that will be to Game 4 of the first
round.

The Coyotes fell to the Red Wings Monday in what anyone
could have
labeled a “must-win” game.

Before the sold
out crowd at Jobing.com Arena could get to their seats
Detroit was up 2-
0.

“It takes the crowd out of it and it was a pretty quiet
first period because of
those two goals,” forward Kyle Turris said after the loss.
“It’s tough when
they score
early.”

No kidding.

Clearly, Detroit is the better team. They have more stars,
more depth, more
talent and more fans. But Bryzgalov, a Vezina Trophy
candidate, was
supposed to be the great equalizer, the one who could
negate all other
deficiencies and make this a series. Problem is that’s
just not happening.

Bryzgalov has been torched for 12 goals in three games
and, since taking a
1-0 lead early in game, the Coyotes have not led for more
than 167
minutes of hockey. While all of the blame doesn’t fall
squarely on #30’s
shoulders, as the team’s best player and last line of
defense, he needs to be
better. He must be better.

However, that does not mean he’s in danger of heading to
the bench. Head
coach Dave Tippett, lamenting two “really nothing shots”
that went in, said
there has been no consideration to pulling Bryzgalov for
backup Jason
LaBarbera.

“Bryz got us to this point, we’re going to rely on him to
get us out of this,”
he said. Tippett noted, though, that his netminder has
played “just alright”
through three games.

Saying he’s been alright is somewhat generous.