After four weeks of action Round One of the Cage Match Goalie Tournament is finally over. Chalk prevailed in virtually every matchup but perhaps that was necessary to clear the board of the riff-raff. Round Two promises to bring some really tight matchups that will have us bickering and debating all week. We will also be adding a new feature that is sure to put a smile on your face so please stick with us to the end. Now let’s see how the opening round closed out with the results from the Dryden Bracket.
#1 Mike Smith over #8 Michal Neuvirth – 48 votes to 3 votes.
What a difference a year makes. A year ago at this time Neuvirth was a candidate to battle with Tomas Vokoun for the reigns in Washington while Smith was the de facto starter in Phoenix but coming off the season from hell he had in 2010-11 with Tampa Bay no one wanted to touch him. It turns out that Dave Tippett, Sean Burke and the Phoenix Coyotes have mastered some weird form of goalie witchcraft and extracted an absolute stud out of the mangled carcass that was Smith. Meanwhile, Neuvirth is still caught up in a goalie battle only this time with Braden Holtby. Neuvirth’s inability to take the starting job by the haunches and Smith’s complete turnaround have combined to flip this one on its head. Smith moves on easily.
#2 Cam Ward over #7 James Reimer – 48 votes to 0 votes.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we have our first shutout* in Cage Match Tournament history!
Why is there an asterisk beside shutout you may ask? Well because we only got 48 votes. I don’t know if it’s general ennui from the lockout or simply poor timing with Canadian Thanksgiving and American Columbus Day but voting took a steep drop this week. This tournament was averaging well over 80 votes per poll for the first three weeks and then dove to like 50 this week. Props to Cam Ward for hitting the record books with this blanking of Reimer but the reality is it comes up a bit empty with the drop off in participation.
#3 Roberto Luongo over #6 Anders Lindback – 38 votes to 10 votes.
I can’t decide if this is a vote of confidence in the possibility of Luongo getting traded or a complete lack of confidence in Lindback as a starter. The reality is the masses have voted for the Canucks backup ahead of the Lightning starter. I’m on board with this decision just realize there is a lot of uncertainty on either side.
#4 Niklas Backstrom over #5 Semyon Varlamov – 28 votes to 22 votes.
I’ve taken to criticizing the masses over the past few weeks for what I consider questionable votes but it’s hard to disagree with a vote so close. It’s true that I voted against the majority but I think that you may just be splitting hairs here.
In general, I don’t think anyone truly believes in either Niklas Backstrom or Semyon Varlamov but they might believe in the potential of their respective teams. The Minnesota Wild have received all the accolades this summer. They made all the big signings and they also have the exciting rookie (Mikael Granlund) coming over to play this year. Oh and they have an incredibly deep farm system. They are the breakout team du jour.
Personally, I think that the Wild are one or two years away from making that leap. When all is said and done they may have the next dynasty in the Northwest Division but I actually think Colorado is much closer to being a playoff team.
If you recall, Colorado is a team that already had their big break two seasons ago but then fell back to the pack with back-to-back 11th place finishes as their young players suffered through growing pains. Nevertheless this is a deep young team with a lot of size and grit on the blueline and enough skill to roll three scoring lines up front. They may still struggle to make the playoffs but they will be in the hunt, which is as much as you can say for Minnesota.
Ultimately if both goaltenders are equally underwhelming and both teams are equally intriguing then you’ve got to do a gut check or a coin-flip. It’s hard to criticize the results of a mental coin flip. My gut says Varlamov but it’s too close to be definitive.
Kicking things off in Round Two we have the matchups in the Roy and Hasek Brackets. Fittingly Dominic Hasek just retired after a long and illustrious career. Surely he would have dominated a tournament of this nature.
There’s no denying that Boston is a much more dominant team the Anaheim but how do you factor in that Hiller is the much more proven commodity?
This one should be really tight between two proven starters.
This is yet another one of those quality of team vs. quality of goaltender battles between two guaranteed starters.
A good ol’ Western battle between these two up-and-coming goaltenders.
Now for your special surprise, courtesy of forum member Dakkster…
It’s the LOSERS BRACKET!
Here’s how it works:
Every player that has lost thus gets banished to one of our islands of terrible goaltending. Each week you get a chance to vote for the goalie you feel least deserves to be banished. The rest of the goalies must wait another week for their chance to escape exile. This isn’t a perfect system but it will help you figure out tiers for the goalies that have lost so far.
If you are wondering about goalies who may get eliminated from the championship round later on, don’t fret, we’ve got plans for them! So please follow the links below and get your preferred goalie off of these proverbial “loser islands”!
Remember this tournament is based on value in a one-year league with Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage and Shutouts as categories. Please follow the links provided to cast your votes and make your voice heard!