23 Intently Staring Goalies
Sometimes the story is that there's no story. In the case of the Carolina Hurricanes, what's curiously and rather cheerily missing is the story about a goalie controversy.
With so many goaltenders in the NHL either playing 70 games in a regular season, or thinking they ought to play at least 70 games, any back-up who is isn't taking the part of gate-opener and trivia answer suddenly becomes the focus of a media-generated controversy. That's when you watch an interview of the winning goalie start out with a question about the other goalie, as if the game that evening wasn't news enough.
Carolina has decided to let the goalies be the story.
I keep wanting Thomas Greiss to play better.
I watched Greiss while he was the backup for the San Jose Sharks. That's a bit of a trick, since he played behind Nabokov and Niemi, both goalies known for wanting to play every game in the season. Greiss was usually found to be sitting on the bench and taking notes on the game, instead of in the crease and stopping pucks.
After the Florida Panthers let Theodore and Clemmensen go this past summer, I kept waiting for them to announce that they'd traded for someone, or picked up a European goaltender, or grabbed an undrafted NCAA player, or something. But all that came out of Dale Tallon's office was they would stay with Markstrom.
Okay, nice idea, but they needed someone as a backup, preferably someone who could come in for a string of 5-10 games if Markstrom was hurt, or at least handle the second game of back to back games.
Markstrom did well for as badly as the Panthers played, but you'd think Tallon would want to have some sort of insurance.
So, now they're looking at some insurance, by inviting Tim Thomas in for a professional tryout. The word on the street is that it's going to lead to a one-year contract, somewhere in the vicinity of $2 million.
The definition for the Vezina trophy according to the NHL website: "The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs."
The Vezina trophy changed from being a totally objective award to a more subjective one back in 1981, when the Jennings trophy was introduced to award the goaltender with the lowest goals against average. And if you're old enough to remember when the CBC only showed the second and third period for Hockey Night in Canada, you probably spent more than a few seasons being more than a bit miffed when you thought the best goaltender that year wasn't necessarily the one who had the lowest GAA.
Not a lot of teams have had their goaltender head off to another team immediately after the team wins and Stanley Cup, but that was the situation the Chicago Blackhawks found themselves after Antti Niemi signed with the San Jose Sharks. There were a lot of fans (and writers!) who went into "What the heck are we going to do for a goalie?" mode. The goalie they had in the system, Corey Crawford, was too young (he was 26--not a baby by goalie standards), too inexperienced, to take over the lead role.
The Blackhawks signed Marty Turco.
"If you keep thinking about the last goal. you'll soon be thinking about the next, last goal."
Good advice if you're playing goal. You spend your time thinking about that last goal, and you won't see the next one coming. That extrapolates to playoff games--if you spend your energy thinking about the previous game, you won't have the energy to play well. If you're grumbling to yourself in the next game, you're not paying attention to the play. The puck goes in, and now you have more to dwell on. That's how games can go hyperbolic in a very short time.
There are teams who develop goalies.
There are teams who trade for goalies.
And then there are teams that go through goalies like a bowl of salted peanuts.
The Philadelphia Flyers fall into that last category. Even before Bobrovsky was named a Vezian finalist, there have been questions about the Flyers ability to get and keep even a decent goalie. Even when they trade for what appears to be at least a midlist goaltender, within a season they're either out the door or on their way out of town with a sub .900 save percentage, and a goals against on the wrong side of 2.5.
Here's a sampling of who's been between the pipes in the post-Hextall era:
There was a lot of "Good News/Bad News" in the Chicago Blackhawks chatter in the past few weeks.
The Good News: First in the West, won Presidents Cup, and the team is trending up.
The Bad News: Emery's hurt.
"The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
I could write a frothy paragraph, but you know, I don't think I could add anything.
Mike Russo at the StarTribune says it all:
Right now, if you look up "Richard Bachman", you're more likely to get an article about Stephen KIng than the Dallas Stars goaltender. And while Stephen King is an immednsely popular author, I have my suspicions he wouldn't make the cut as an NHL goaltender. Maybe Stephen King can meet us halfway and wrote a book featuring a really scary NHL goaltender.Or maybe one where the goalie's psychological gotchas parallel the supernatural badness he's having to face.
And back to reality....
About 23 Intently Staring Goalies
23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.
On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.
I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.
We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.
It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!