Vesa Toskala and Tomas Vokoun were so close to being on opposite teams that Saturday’s game between Florida and Toronto was a great way to look at which team made the better move. Yet in a league where goalies get tossed around in the offseason more often than Paris Hilton in a Hollywood nightclub, there were many other goalies that either team could have signed, which opens up a myriad of different possible outcomes.
So imagining Toskala as a Panther and Vokoun as a Maple Leaf turns into a fun exercise in fantasy hockey semantics. How do you think things would be different for each team? Surely, both goalies must have looked down at each other at some point in the game and asked “What if…”
Vokoun was actually drafted by Montreal, so what if the Canadiens were able to keep him instead of losing him in Nashville’s expansion draft? What if the Sharks kept Toskala instead of Evgeni Nabokov? And what if that led Nabokov to sign with Florida, meaning Vokoun ended up in Toronto, then Alex Auld went to Los Angeles instead of Phoenix and then Curtis Joseph signed with Montreal and Carey Price was still in the minors?! For all of these infinite possibilities, there’s a million different outcomes – and this is what I call quantum goaltending. It can be fun to mull over, but it can also blow your mind, so beware.
Now “quantum goaltending” is based on quantum physics, which is a scientist’s way of figuring out a molecule’s location at any moment in time. By learning how these particles and atoms move, we can better understand the matter which makes up the universe. Quantum physics leads to the popular theory of a parallel universe – and thus my somewhat-ridiculous idea of quantum goaltending.
Since molecules and atoms can exist in different locations at the same time depending on how they’re observed, the same molecules that comprise our bodies can exist in other places at this very moment in time. And since our universe is known to be perfectly flat, thus infinite, it’s believed that there are millions and billions of other real universes out there, many of which behave and look exactly like our own. Yes, it’s an idea that totally boggles the mind, but it’s really not that incomprehensible.
The best way to describe a parallel universe is by watching a penalty shot. Either the goalie makes the save, or the shooter scores. When one outcome takes place, the universe splits in two and the other outcome becomes a parallel universe. If a save is made, the parallel universe becomes a world where the goal was scored. All following actions and reactions take place in a different universe, yet still exist.
So how the heck does this correlate to goaltending? Well, somewhere in the bane of this existence, Vokoun DID play for the Leafs and Toskala DID play for the Panthers on Saturday night. I spent some time thinking about who won the game – I had Toronto demolishing Florida 5-0 and Vokoun only had to make 15 saves, while Toskala was pulled for the fifth time of the season. What do you think? So this idea is not that far-fetched – in fact, there are a few interesting parallels between both goalies and their teams.
The Leafs traded a first, second and fourth-round pick to the Sharks for Toskala on the first day of the NHL Draft in June and a few hours later, the Panthers also swapped three picks for Vokoun. It’s a known fact that the Panthers would have pulled the trigger on signing Toskala, yet it never worked out. Whether it was a lack of agreement in the front office or the fact that San Jose wanted more than what Florida was offering, the outcome for both goalies materialized just hours into the NHL Draft.
One factor that certainly played into Florida’s decision was Vokoun’s 384 games played to Toskala’s 78, and even though both goalies have been playing exceptionally well in December, Vokoun is silently putting together a more substantial run on a weaker team. Vokoun is second in the NHL in wins (17), fifth in shutouts (three) and seventh in save percentage (.922), with a 5-0-2 record and 1.84 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in his past seven games. Toskala came in 12-11-4 with a 2.69 GAA and .907 save percentage. Florida seems to have made the better choice – at least in this universe.
Honestly, this whole idea of quantum goaltending doesn’t really amount to much, except that it’s a fun way to exercise your brain and develop knowledge of the position while learning more about the unique technicalities of a goalie and how he can benefit or hold back their team. Some goalies are a better fit on a certain team than others, so asking “what if…” and “why not…” will help you uncover the elusive, special code that exists underneath the surface of normal, everyday statistics and trends. The position is so unique – the athlete so unpredictable – that stretching your brain muscles and looking at parallel universes in the world of goaltending can do a lot of good over a short period of time.
Remember, however, that this example of Toskala and Vokoun is just one of millions in the history of the NHL. It might seem a little asinine to write about, but at least it gets you thinking. So learn it, live it and love it, because that’s why we’re all here.