The pressure of a seventh game of a postseason hockey series is nothing new for Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov, who is expected to get the start tonight when the Mighty Ducks visit Calgary with a trip to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the line, will be participating in a Game 7 for the third straight spring.
In 2004, with the American Hockey League’s Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, Bryzgalov led his team up against the regular-season champion Milwaukee Admirals in the West Division semifinals of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Ducks had held a 3-2 lead in the series, but the Admirals’ firepower proved too strong, and Cincinnati fell in Game 7 despite a 31-save effort from Bryzgalov. Current Anaheim forwards Chris Kunitz and Corey Perry also played in that contest.
Cincinnati’s seven-game battle proved to be the toughest challenge Milwaukee would face that spring. The Admirals won 12 of their next 15 games to capture the Calder Cup championships.
One year later to the day, on May 1, 2005, Cincinnati was back in Milwaukee for another Game 7, this time having battled back from a 3-1 series deficit. Bryzgalov made 23 saves on this night, and current NHL Duck Joffrey Lupul assisted on the game-winning goal with 13 seconds left in regulation, as Cincy completed the historic comeback with a 4-3 victory over the defending champs.
Kunitz had two assists and a plus-4 rating in that Game 7, which also featured Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner.
This year, his first full season in the NHL, Bryzgalov earned the win in Game 6 vs. Calgary, and has stopped 68 of 71 shots for a 1.08 GAA and .958 save percentage in three appearances in the series.
A second-round draft choice by Anaheim in 2000, Bryzgalov won 76 games in four AHL seasons with Cincinnati.