Ilya Bryzgalov has continued his dominant play in the month of March, leading to a playoff berth for the Philadelphia Flyers.
His play will also have a hand in whether they can make a run at a more prestigious achievement.
Bryzgalov will likely get a chance to continue his dazzling run as the Flyers attempt to win for the eighth time in nine games at Wells Fargo Center in a matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
Bryzgalov is 10-1-1 with a 1.22 goals-against average and four shutouts this month, a dramatic turnaround from his 2.78 GAA and two shutouts in his first 44 games with Philadelphia (44-23-8).
The fact that the Russian goaltender's greatest success has come in March shouldn't come as a surprise. He leads the NHL with 26 wins, eight shutouts and a 1.84 GAA during that month over the last three seasons, helping Phoenix to the playoffs twice and now the Flyers, who have their sights set on a run to their first Stanley Cup since 1974-75.
"The way he's playing right now, he played exactly that way in Phoenix," right wing Wayne Simmonds told the team's official website of facing Bryzgalov when he was with Los Angeles. "Every time we played Phoenix it was always like a 2-1 or 1-0 game. It was always low-scoring and he never let in too many goals. I think now he's confident. He's playing awesome. He's that goalie again."
Bryzgalov was impressive again Saturday, making 23 saves and also getting an assist in a 4-1 win over Montreal as Philadelphia clinched a playoff spot while improving to 10-2-1 this month.
"I think we're more focused to play the proper way and play good hockey," Bryzgalov said. "We're battling hard. Sometimes we're lucky, sometimes we're skilled. It's tough to complain."
The Flyers wouldn't be blamed for continuing to turn to Bryzgalov since he's won seven of eight home games behind a 1.35 GAA, while backup Sergei Bobrovsky has a 4.80 GAA during a 1-5-0 stretch there. Bobrovsky has also lost his last four games overall.
Bryzgalov has started each of the three season meetings with the Lightning (34-33-7), but has a 1-1-1 record and 3.19 GAA.
Danny Briere may be trying to draw inspiration from Bryzgalov's stunning turnaround after scoring twice against the Canadiens following a 29-game stretch with one goal. The center has 16 goals on the season after netting a career-high 34 in 2010-11.
Briere had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 home victory over Tampa Bay on Dec. 10.
Steven Stamkos can't be blamed for the Lightning being all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention a season after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The center's league-leading 52 goals tie the franchise record set by Vincent Lecavalier in 2006-07. He matched that mark with two goals while assisting on another in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Stamkos, however, would rather be joining the Flyers in the playoffs.
"I don't think it means too much right now with where we are in the standings," Stamkos said. "It's nice. We'd like to be doing that in the playoffs."
Stamkos has 10 goals and five assists in 14 career meetings with Philadelphia, scoring twice against Bryzgalov in a 5-1 win Dec. 27.