Remember not to far back when if a team had the great puck stopper tending your cage you were favored to go a long way in the playoffs. With the likes of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Ken Dryden, Dom Hasek, Ed Belfour, Terry Sawchuk and even Grant Fuhr to name a few goaltenders that you could count on to steal a series let alone just one playoff game? In this era, is it me or has the game of hockey completely gone in a different direction? Let’s use this year’s goaltenders for an example and try your best to pick a goaltender you have 100% confidence in, that can give you solid netminding to help your team win a Stanley Cup.
For me there is only one goaltender I would have complete 100% confidence in, going into the playoffs and that is Ryan Miller, but even with Ryan if you go back to 2006/2007 he was really not that stellar, although a huge difference depends on the team you are playing with for obvious reasons such as a defensive trapping style, that New Jersey or Nashville plays currently.
Let’s take a look at this year’s playoff goaltenders.
Ryan Miller – MVP type year and has had only 1 or 2 bad games the entire season. I have no issues hanging my hopes on this guy.
Martin Brodeur- Arguably one of the best goaltenders of all time. Has shown signs of aging, of course, and has not been stellar in previous playoff series in the past few years. Has won 4 Vezina trophies since the 2002/2003 season, but once again it’s his playoff performances.
Brian Elliott – Young and unproven, but how else is he supposed to prove to people he can play without actually playing? This goes for a lot for other young goaltenders in this year’s playoffs.
Marc-Andre Fleury- He was stellar last year, but this regular season he has been mediocre, Heck, he even made me lose my fantasy league he was so bad, and in Game 1 of this year’s playoffs against Ottawa he was horrific.
Brian Boucher- Has been up and down since replacing Ray Emery, and lost his job for a bit to Michael Leighton.
Pekka Rinne- Has been quite good, but once again, the youth factor.
Antii Niemi- See above, and also plays for a puck possession team. Even Huet had a good GAA and winning Percentage!
Jimmy Howard- A seasoned AHL goaltender who stepped in and took the reigns from one of the best “playoff goaltenders”. Once again, he is a rookie so we shall see…
Ilya Bryzgalov- MVP type year, does not have a ton of playoff exposure but was solid in the first game against Detroit this year.
Craig Anderson- Had a great year, but does he have what it takes to bring the Avs to the promised land?
Evgeni Nabokov- Always has a good regular season, but hey so do the San Jose Sharks! Nabby has been criticized for past poor playoff performances.
Tukka Rask- Yet another rookie stealing the reigns from last year’s Vezina winner.
Jaroslav Halak- Promising young goaltender that stole the show from Carey Price, so far so good.
Jose Theodore- Has probably been the best goaltender since the Olympic break, but do you want him as your goalie moving forward?
Jonathan Quick- His last name speaks for itself, the kid is fast and has some great games. Can he take you to the Cup though?
Roberto Luongo- Another one of the much talked about goaltenders, argued by many as the current best in the league and during the Olympics proved he can be stellar. However, he has been pulled in multiple games this year perhaps more than anyone and that’s playing for an excellent team. Also, look back to last years playoffs where he was close to awful.
So with the above 16 goaltenders how much confidence does one have in any of these guys? Has goaltending quality dropped or are we going through a time where the older goaltenders are diminishing away and seemingly a youth movement is occurring? In most cases every year there are 1 or 2 newcomer netminders that arrive, but looking at this year there are at least 10 goalies with limited or no playoff experience at all, and many questions on the goaltenders who do have past experience.
The old motto used to be “you build your team from the net out“. Not too sure that is true anymore, simply because some teams can not do that because of the lack of quality goaltenders in their system such as Chicago, Ottawa and Philadelphia. Look at the Edmonton Oilers who are in full rebuilding mode. They have an aging Khabibulin and a couple of decent young goaltenders in the system but can they build off of those guys? Most certainly not! They need to build around guys like Hall/Seguin, or Gagner etc. simply because they have no choice. Chicago is a prime example of building a team around players with the likes of Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook through years of strong draft selections, Tampa is similar as they have a team of superstars up front with average goaltending, but have yet to find any success even after many years of great draft positions.
The final questions are: Has the NHL changed from building from the net out and headed towards team depth instead and can a team win with an average goaltender and a great team up front? The hack on many teams this year has been “they can’t win as they have no goaltending!” Yet that team has solid forwards and defensemen. Buffalo and New Jersey have great goaltenders but the depth of the squads is questionable so they play a tight system. Chicago, Washington, and San Jose (for example) have excellent depth up front, but questionable goaltenders.
It will be an interesting playoffs this year to see who is right and who is wrong about having to have a star netminder to win the playoffs. I am leaning towards the people who say team depth is more important, because really there are not a lot of “star” goaltenders out there. Will we see the next Roy or Brodeur come a long in the likes of Jack Campbell in a few years or current goaltenders right now or has the game changed so much that the goaltending position is not as big a factor as it used to be.
It will be an exciting ride I guarantee that.
Thanks for reading,
About the Author
Written by Trent Kondo
An all around sports fan and has been a Chicago BlackHawks supporter longer then he can remember. Currently writes for Prosportsblogging.com on the Blackhawks and NHLHotstove.com on the Edmonton Oilers. (If you would like to email feel free to contact Trent at TKONHOCKEY@gmail.com )