23 Intently Staring Goalies
It’s the Stanley Cup Finals, and the goalie mot talked abut is…. Dominik Hasek! Hasek wants to make a return to the NHL, and he’s purportedly talking to at least two (depending on who’s reporting, pick two of three: Detroit, Buffalo and Tampa Bay) teams about mounting his comeback.
There’s been a lot of talk about how goalies have started to last until they are on the edge of 40. And I’m surprised that Johnny Bowers’ indeterminately aged career hasn’t been brought up, other than it was a different game 40-50 years ago.
I have in my possession a close-up photo I took of Sean Burke in a Hartford Whalers mask. Nope, he didn’t suddenly spring up from the seafoam—which would be a neat trick in Arizona—and become the hottest goalie coach in the NHL.
If someone has asked me back then if I thought Sean Burke was going to become a premier goalie coach, I wouldn’t have considered it. Burke was better than a good goalie, but he also had a rep for having a bit of a temper on-ice. He’s hit the league with a splash, fresh from the Canadian National Team, and looked like the goalie of the future for the New Jersey Devils.
I wonder if Jason LaBarbera wakes up at 3AM and wonders about how he arrived where he is right now. He’s Mike Smith’s backup, and a goalie who’s been on both teams in the Western Conference finals. (For the bar bet of the week, he’s also tended goal for the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers.) He’s been the #1 goalie in the minors, but other than one season with the LA Kings, he’s played understudy.
The brackets are long broken, and the sportsbook numbers no longer make any sense whatsoever. What could cause such a one-two punch to amateur and professional wagering? How about a Phoenix/LA Western Conference final!
Neither Smith nor Quick were tagged as “the one” at the beginnings of their NHL careers, although Quick took the role in very little time. Under the coach and GM team of Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi, Quick’s star has risen, and he’s caught the attention of the national hockey press. Western Conference teams, and specifically Pacific Division teams, have had the “pleasure: of trying to get the puck past Quick this season, and once the Kings started to show some goal scoring support for their goalie, the team took off.
Roberto Luongo is in the market, and some have already decided that he’s going to the Maple Leafs. Or maybe he’s going to the Oilers, or maybe the Lightning. I could keep going, but there’s the rest of the league to list, and that would take awhile.
For a number of fans, writers, and analysts who are looking in from the outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is the best recreation available. There’s a lot of “could we? should we? would we?” running loose across the ink and phosphors. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and hey, you don’t have to cut the check!
It isn’t then end of the first round, but we can see it from here, and Braden Holtby continues on his mission, and he continues to get attention from the press.
Why? With the “don’t worry, we’ll score more” battle of attrition between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and almost daily wait for the” who, what and why” suspension announcement from Brendan Shanahan, it’s one of the classic sports stories—new and relatively unknown kid makes good, and makes it in a pressure filled and glaringly lit venue.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs can be the door a relatively unknown goalie uses to enter the NHL. Ken Dryden was better known for his college play when he shut down the Bruins in 1971. Mike Vernon was a local kid who made good in the 1986 playoffs. So I’m not surprised that Braden Holtby has caught the attention of the hockey media.
Holtby turned what might have been Boston rolling over a weaker team into a goalie battle, only giving up the winning (and only) goal in overtime. Washington Capitals—when you lose 1-0 in overtime, you shouldn’t be looking at your goalie.
We’re seeing more than the usual share of backups and a mix of kids ad oldsters from the AHL as the season winds down. Some teams are slotted in and want to give their #1 a rest. And some, well because they don’t have a choice.
The Washington Capitals fall into the latter category, and the big arrow stops on… Dany Sabourin!
We’re coming up on the end of the season, and some of the teams you wouldn’t have suspected are continuing to make goalie changes and additions, well, because they really don’t have many options:
In the “Where is he now? He’s on the Island!” category, the New York Islanders have signed John Grahame to an end of the season contract. With Nabokov’s injury, the Islanders, who as you remember, started out this season with three goaltenders in tow, are down to one, AL Montoya, and their AHL call-up, Kevin Poulin. The Islanders’ AHL team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, are currently in first place in the Northeast division of the AHL. Signing Grahame appears to be partly giving the Islanders some depth at goal, and an attempt to not mess up the Tigers chances.
Apologies to the ghost of Herb Caen!
Nabokov signed up for another year on the Island. According to TSN, he’ll be making $2.75 million to backstop the Islanders. Even though Nabokov’s record is south of .500, his 2.56 GAA and .912 save percentage is enough to make him a serious candidate for the Islanders’ MVP. Nabokov also gives the Islanders insurance if/when DiPietro comes back next season.
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Tags: brian+elliott, evgeni+nabokov, goalies, james+reimer, jaroslav+halak, jimmy+howard, joey+macdonald, jonas+gustavsson, jonathan+quick, marty+turco
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!