Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Patrick Hoffman on 09/13/06 at 01:30 PM ET
Is there a goaltending controversy looming over Philadelphia? Last season, the Flyers had a 1/1a goaltending system. 2004 playoff hero Robert Esche won 22 games, had 2.97 goals against average and a .897 save percentage. In the beginning of the season, Hitchcock gave Esche the opportunity to be the number one guy but Esche never seemed to be able to take control.
1a goaltender Antero Niittymaki continues to challenge Esche for the role of number one goaltender. Niittymaki was spectacular in a 17-consecutive start stretch dating back to late December into January and he used that momentum to win 23 games and post a goals against average of 2.97 and a save percentage of .895. To top it all off, he was a Silver medalist and a tournament MVP in the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
New York Islanders
The first overall pick in the 2000 NHL entry draft has yet to find his niche out on the Island. While winning 30 games and posting a goals against average of 3.02 and a respectable save percentage of .900, Rick DiPietro has yet to excel as the Islanders starting goaltender. He has been unable to provide his hockey club with a consistent regular season and he still has some trouble positionally. If he wants to prevent further embarrassment of his team, he will need to have a strong regular season and try to push his club into the playoffs, certainly no easy task.
As of now, the role of backup goaltender will be played by Wade Dubielewicz, replacing the now-GM of the team Garth Snow. Dubielewicz won two games last season but look for him to get in more games this year if DiPietro cannot give the Islanders want they want: solid goaltending.
The time is now for Penguins young phenom goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to become the go-to man in net. The 21-year old played in 50 games last season and put up respectable numbers for the worst defensive teams in the NHL, as he posted a 3.25 goals against average and a .898 save percentage. This kid has great athleticism, an abundance of side-to-side quickness and a drive to put the Penguins back on the map.
The backup goaltender for the Pens is Jocelyn Thibault. He was a free agent flop for the hockey club as he went 1-9 in 16 games for his club while posting a 4.46 goals against average and a .876 save percentage. What the Pens could use is a solid veteran presence in net but that has yet to be seen down in PA.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org