For my 2nd installment, I thought I’d mention the key areas I’ll be writing about. They will be ranging from interesting insight into goalie techniques, thoughts on how the game looks from the vantage point of the crease, and some of the current happenings in the NHL stables.
This week is a great time to go over the crazy year that some teams have been having with their goaltending situations. Going into the stretch run and with the trade deadline looming, there are bound to be some interesting situations and moves.
Some have already happened, some are going to happen, and some are just plain weird happenings.
- As for a recent big trade-The Sens and the Avs have swapped Elliott and Anderson. Some may question this move, and at face value, it may seem like the Sens got the better end of the deal. While Anderson can be a touch streaky, if he is able to keep his head in it, he can put together some strong outings. Opinions on Elliott vary from not being starter material, to just not having an opportunity on a consistent basis to prove his worth. Opinions are just that, but a pretty safe one is that this may have been a money saving measure for Colorado. As for the Sens, perhaps it’s a time buying measure to see how Robin Lehner pans out.
- The Leafs have had a very interesting year in between the pipes. Jean-Sebastien Giguere doesn’t seem to be a good fit in Toronto, due in part to his injury plagued season. Jonas Gustavsson was out again with a minor heart condition (interesting to see if Toronto or any team takes a chance on him with his known condition). Prospect Jussi Rynnas broke a finger during practice, which left James “Optimus Reim” Reimer (woot!) and Ben Scrivens. Uncertainty, is the word here. The Leafs have some good goaltenders, they just aren’t sure who will be available from week to week.
- The Islanders-Ho boy! What’s to say about the debacle on Long Island? I’m sure everyone’s heard about the Nabokov deal. He put his hopes in joining a perennial contender in Detroit, but got snapped off waivers by the Isles. This did not make him a happy boy and is still in refusal (or denial?) of reporting to the team. Of course, trading Roloson to the Bolts and the ever-hurt and asinine antics of Dipietro (how did that calling out of Johnson of the Penguins go for you there, chief?). Then there was strong back-up, Kevin Poulin, getting hurt in warm-ups, which brought up the Isles 5th and 6th goalies, Koskinen and Martin. They shored things up (as much as a goalie can do for the Islanders), until the arrival of Al Montoya, who they recently signed. My take? Unload Nabokov, find a way out of the colossally bad contract you gave DiPietro, go with Poulin and Montoya for the time being, and try not to forget about Koskinen. While not NHL ready on a full time basis, Mikko has shown he can be solid. Gather them up, head for the bunker and look for a veteran (you know like the one you traded away to Tampa Bay?) in the off season.
- The Devils are leaning on back-up Johan Hedberg, as Brodeur went down with a mild knee injury. Mike McKenna got the call to back up Hedberg while Marty was out. Brodeur is back now, but with his age and probably his best years behind him, Marty will ease back into going full-bore, I think.
- The Ducks-If you watched the All-Star game, then you probably saw Jonas Hiller get racked in the mask by a bomb. Neither he nor Ducks personnel are blaming his post All-Star break health issues on a concussion. I think in part, due to the hot topic that it currently is and the implications it may have if he has one. However, all roads lead to Rome. So, along with this heavy shot off the mask, Hiller also took a shot in practice early in the season that caused him to need some stiches over his eye. It’s probably the first time in history a doctor with any smattering of competency, who is treating someone for head trauma, has not asked if they’ve had any other recent head injury. Hiller took some time off, came back, posted a shut-out, and is now expected to miss some more time, due to the same ailments. The call-it-anything-but-a-concussion stance is a bit silly and seemingly unnecessary if you ask me. But no one has, so I’ll move on with the facts. Competent back-up Curtis McElhinney will handle the starting duties, who also wasn’t without a head injury this year, as he suffered a head gash in an earlier game.
- In other Ducks goaltending news- You may remember a goalie by the name of Ray Emery. He dropped out of the NHL and professional hockey all together with some hip problems. This turned out to be the very same degenerative hip issue that ended Bo Jackson’s career. Emery elected to go with some risky surgery. Risky in the fact that it may affect his ability to walk, years down the road. Nonetheless, he made the decision to have it done, recovered, started a hard-core training and rehabilitation regiment, and has signed with the Ducks. He is on a conditional contract on their AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch. While it’s only been a short time, Emery has been doing well, in practices and in games. I’m rooting for him. I’m not a fan of hotheads, but I am a fan of a comeback story. Add to that, his noted change in attitude and outlook, his unique goaltending style, and I can dig what the Ray-Man is cookin’!
- Buffalo- Ryan Miller simply cannot carry the work load that he is being given. He’s a great goalie, but he’s going to have a bad outing and did. Then, he was prodded by the Buffalo press, with one reporter making a smart-assed remark to him. Pertaining to, arguably, one of the biggest losses of his career. I guess the reporter forgot that goalies are human and Miller might have been a bit on edge after taking the shellacking. Said reporter also forgot the amazing stretch of going 18-9-3 before this debacle. Yet he prodded him, Miller reacted and of course, got painted as just another selfish and arrogant sports star. Yawn on that. In an interesting side note to this, the Sabres won’t use Patrick Lalime to alleviate some pressure from Miller. So, I’m not sure why they keep hanging onto him, if they don’t want to use him. The reason they don’t send him out there? They don’t feel he can win. Coach Ruff hasn’t said it, but it certainly is implied. Maybe the new owner will see to it that this situation is rectified. In the very least, it’s not good business to keep paying someone whom you don’t feel can get the job done, to a degree so badly you are even afraid to give them a job assignment.
- San Jose started the season with some solid net minders, Niemi and Niittymaki. But the season is long and can take a toll on the body. Nittymacks went down with an injury and the Sharks’ farm team is planted on the other side of the country. So for a game in Vancouver, they turned to the local goalie pool of farm system, college and on occasion- beer leaguers. San Jose didn’t need to dig down that far but they did have to turn to a local college net minder from UBC, named Jordan White. I am quite sure he left with a free game jersey bearing his name and number and a huge smile. This is one of those great obscurities to stardom stories that have dotted the NHL in the last few years. Caps fans may remember a few seasons ago when they dressed a guy that worked on their website as a back-up for then starter, Brent Johnson, when Jose Theodore went down. Semyon Varlamov couldn’t make it from the Hershey Bears in time for the start of the game. Varly was able to get there by mid-game and ended Brett Leonhardt’s brush with fame, but not before Leonhardt became a fan favorite in his short visit. I love stories like that. One never knows when a team may have to turn to the crowd and ask: “is there a goalie in the house?” Why yes. Yes there is. I keep the pads in the van every time I take a game in for that very reason. Yep, I’m a nerd like that.
These are just a few of the stand out stories for some teams. There are some smaller, less dramatic stories like Nashville dressing two goalies one night, neither of which had any NHL experience. Other than that hiccup, they’ve been a solid, non-story. I do not mean that in a negative regard.
With all that has been crazy, uncertain, odd and weird, there have been even more teams that haven’t had to deal with those situations. There are quite a number of teams that I haven’t mentioned. I’m sure this is the way they prefer it- have a solid, dependable and predictable goalie situation all season. No use mentioning the tandems in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Washington (props to Holtby, good showing for that boy) and beyond, in an article pertaining to goaltender woes.
Did I miss a story? Get something totally wrong? Did I leave your team out? Let me know! Always love talking about the cage. Until then, see you in two.