Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Goalies arriving to a fresh start or more of the same?

The goalies are arriving, whether it's a full camp or a lockout. For some of them, it's the chance to prove that last season wasn't a fluke. For some, it's to prove it was. It doesn't matter if it was injury, a change in style, or looking like they were one year past their shelf date, there's always a question as to whether the past season was the goalie hitting an air pocket, or if it's the beginning of a trend.

With the older goalies, training camp brings the question of whether it's time to go with the new kid. With the younger goalie, it's a question of whether someone made the wrong decision, whether it's the GM's pick, the team/goalie matchup, or the goalie coaching.

It may be time to start with a fresh slate, but history is always in the back of everyone's mind.

In Philadelphia, where their goaltending took the Flyers on a unsettling thrill ride, Bryzgalov showed up a bit lighter, and ready to gett he new season underway. From Sam Carchidi at philly.com:

The start of the NHL season is threatened by a league-imposed lockout, meaning the Ilya Bryzgalov Revival will probably be put on hold.

Bryzgalov is trimmer, more comfortable with his surroundings, and eager to start his second season with the Flyers - and show more consistency than in his sometimes-tumultuous, sometimes-spectacular first year with the club.

The 32-year-old goalie has been working out at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. He has lost about eight pounds from last season and is ready to play more like the netminder who was a Vezina runner-up in Phoenix.

"I did lots of training this summer," said a smiling Bryzgalov. "As you can see, I'm skinny and prepared."

But being in better shape may not mean much because representatives of the players and owners have not had formal negotiating talks since Aug. 31 - even though the collective-bargaining agreement expires Saturday.

If the season does get under way, Bryzgalov, with his first year with the Flyers behind him, feels more at ease with himself.

"To be honest, I don't analyze everything that happened last year," he said the other day. "I feel totally comfortable right now here. I understand the Philly media. I understand the Philly fans right now. I know what to expect from everybody in the locker room."

Will that help him when/if the season rolls around?

"I don't think there's any question," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "He left a [Phoenix] team he had settled into; he came here and didn't know a lot about the area and didn't know a lot about the team, and he was in a different conference. Now he has a year under his belt in a pressure-packed marketplace.

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And in Toronto, James Reimer looks to a new season where he'll be expected to be the go-to man, but where he's also going to be on a very short leash. Frpm Lance Hornsby at the Toronto Sun:

James Reimer clutched his three-iron during interviews on Monday, asked in jest if he’d keep it handy for future crease crashers.

Reimer suffered severe head and neck pain early last season when Brian Gionta of the Canadiens banged into him during an Oct. 22 game in Montreal. No one knew the significance of the incident as Reimer’s hot start of 4-0-1 became a season-long struggle for health and consistency, directly affecting the Leafs in another non-playoff year. Reimer’s mind and mechanics were so messed up in the second half that a search for a veteran goalie was launched in earnest when playoffs began.

But as spring gave way to summer and general manager Brian Burke was unable to land a star such as Roberto Luongo, Reimer was hard at work in Kelowna, B.C., getting his groove back. With no other options, Burke is taking a leap of faith that Reimer can play at the NHL level a whole season.

“We believe in James,” Burke said Monday. “We said from the get-go that if we get an opportunity to upgrade, we will. But it’s not a frantic search for a goaltender. He’s a guy who started off great last year, got run from the side and struggled with injuries and confidence issues. We see no reason he can’t be the guy we think he can be.”

Luongo wants out of Vancouver, but has made it known his first choice is going back to the up-and-coming Panthers. Reimer said he steered clear of all that speculation.

“Luckily where I was living I was kind of sheltered. The rumours were swirling, but it’s something I can’t really control. I trust Brian and what he thinks he needs to do. He says he has faith in me in the paper and that’s fine with me.”

Reimer was the talk of Toronto’s camp a year ago, buoyed by a strong finish in 2010-11, a new contract and even a new clothing line. That all went south after he was hurt.

“I don’t know if it was a complete disaster, but even if you say it was, the beauty of going through adversity and having a crappy season, if you can call it that, was that you learn so much. It’s only a disaster if we don’t learn from it.

“I felt I was successful this summer doing what I needed. I’m ready to go. I tried to take care of business, getting treatments, doing everything right. I feel strong and had absolutely no setbacks.”

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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!