Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Ups and downs in the Western Conference

We’re a month into the season—how’s the goalie situation?

Clint Malarchuk has some pretty strong opinions on how the Calgary goalies, and Karlsson in particular, are doing:


“I’m going to tell you one quick thing from my experience,” Clint Malarchuk said before boarding the team bus. “If you win 6-5, and you play OK, you’ve won. Everybody is high-fiving you and everything. It feels so good.”

There were no high-fives in the visitors’ dressing room Friday at First Niagara Center. No smiles or laughter.

“If you play a game like that kid did? He was phenomenal,” said the Flames goalie coach. “Fricking phenomenal. You know you played well. You know you gave your team a chance.

“But it just doesn’t feel the same.”

And let the debates begin. I keep hearing over and over how it’s the goalie’s fault if the team loses, because “the other goalie played better”. Really? I mean, really? If that was true, why the heck does the league keep all those stats? Can’t be just for the fantasy leagues.

Look at what Calgary is doing, goals scores vs goals allowed. Right now their goals scored run rate is 2.14. They’re effectively asking their goalies to play at a Jennings trophy level, just to scrape up some wins. Right now Calgary is tied for 11th with St Louis (currently in a "say what?!?" situation with Halak, but with a shutout last night, and Hitchcock taking over the coaching, I’m waiting to see if they can turn the entire team around) in goals against, and 28th (Ducks and Islanders bringing up the rear) for goals scored. Whatever is going on in Calgary, I sure wouldn’t be spending all my time trying to figure out what’s happened with the goaltending.

For happy times, take a trip down to Dallas. Lehtonen has to be one of the most pleasant surprises at this point in the season, with an 11-1 record, 2.13 GAA, and .936 SV%. Darryl Rheaugh is one of the very pleased pundits:

Kari isn’t the only reason the Stars have lept out to a 5-1 record. Oh wait, yes, yes he is.

The big Finn has been strafed rather routinely as the retooled lineup in front of him searches for footing and consistency. Sure the quality of shots have been downgraded a tad under new bench boss Glen Gulutzan but the quantity has kept Kari in a full lather.

He’s been a mistake eraser, a momentum dictator, and a game stealer.

Here’s a couple terrific stats to chew on: Since the start of last season Lehtonen is 5-1 in games he has faced 40 or more shots, and a staggering 11-2-3 in 16 career home games in which he was peppered with 40+ shots.

Even though Lehtonen isn’t consistently having 40+ shots against him in each game, Dallas is still allowing a little over 33 shots on goal each game. While that puts Dallas towards the top of heap, it’s not that out of line with the rest of the league.

Interestingly, the team Dallas seems to have the most issues with are the LA Kings, who have been on a bit of a roller coast ride with their goaltending. Woe be to the goalie who comes out the stanchion like a quarterhorse, when the race is actually 10 furlongs. The question is—is Quick tired, streaky, a combination of both, or did those three shutouts cover up a scoring problem with the Kings? The Kings are trending downward in a number of stats, including scored against/scored when 5 on 5. They’re currently in the bottom third of the league in pretty much any stat in the goal scoring department.

What comes next is going to be interesting to watch. While I believe that Quick will come back from the bumpy ride, it’s questionable he or Bernier are going to be able to win many games unless they head towards a sub-2.0 GAA, and right now that’s Edmonton and Minnesota’s domain. And that is what is liable to start a spiral as the offensive side of the house gets so tied up with trying to score that they can’t score.

Which brings us back to the beginning again….

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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!