It sounds like we may actually have a season… Great news, because I’d hate for this whole process to have been all for naught. Last week we kick started the second round of the Cage Match Goalie Tournament and also introduced to you the inaugural Loser’s Bracket. Let’s see how the voting shook out.
#1 Tuukka Rask over #4 Jonas Hiller – 46 votes to 11 votes.
This was billed as a classic proven vs. potential matchup but I don’t think it’s really that simple. While Hiller is proven, he has only started over 60 games in a season once and over 50 games in a season twice. He has 233 career starts to his name but his season totals have mostly been mediocre. Last season Hiller was a workhorse starting 73 games for the Ducks but the results were highly mediocre. In fact, you could argue that it was his worst season as a pro and this comes just a year after Hiller did his best “Lucille Two” impersonation. Suffice to say that whatever Hiller has proven just isn’t all that attractive.
Rask, on the other hand, is being handed the keys to the Boston Bruins kingdom and has a license to kill. We may not know for a fact that Rask will produce but all evidence indicates that being the Bruins goalie is as cushy a job as can be and since Rask, a blue chipper if there ever was one, has spent the last three years apprenticing for the job there is no person better qualified to take over. Sometimes potential just needs a chance to prove itself. Rask is getting that chance.
#2 Carey Price over #3 Ilya Bryzgalov – 41 votes to 17 votes.
It’s become pretty clear that anything attractive about Bryzgalov in net was created by Dave Tippet and Shawn Burke. I mean, how awful was Bryz last season? He played like a man forever worried a bear was going to pop up behind him. And then you look at the miraculous season Mike Smith put up in Phoenix not one summer removed from finishing off a train wreck of a season in Tampa Bay in which he played so poorly that the term sieve doesn’t even do it justice because at least sieves keep some stuff out.
Clearly in Phoenix they have themselves quite the used car lot. They do their best to get these lemons running on the lot. You might even get a good test drive or two out of them but a lemon’s a lemon and Philly bought themselves an expensive one.
#1 Marc-Andre Fleury over #4 Miikka Kiprusoff – 26 votes to 24 votes.
That’s just about as close as it gets but Fleury narrowly prevails. The problem with this matchup was that no one really knows what to expect from either of these goalies. Kiprusoff is as reliable as it comes for getting you a lot of starts but it is damn near a 50/50 coin flip whether or not he is going to put up quality numbers in any given season. Worse yet, Calgary is looking to suck something awful this year, which cannot be good for Kipper’s numbers.
Fleury, meanwhile, well he just doesn’t seem like he’s all that good. He shows flashes of brilliance but over the course of a full season his flaws just seem to come out way too often and by the end of the season he’s lucky to be a top 10 goalie. Fleury plays for a guaranteed winner though so he has that going for him. The problem is the Penguins also brought in Tomas Vokoun, who up until last season’s horrific stint in Washington, was a secret golden child in fantasy circles. How many starts does Vokoun need to steal from Fleury to remove any and all advantage Fleury typically gains from playing for the Penguins? I say it’s somewhere around 30 but that Vokoun won’t quite get there.
#3 Kari Lehtonen over #2 Cory Schneider – 28 votes to 26 votes.
UPSET!!!!!! UPSET!!!! We have an upset! Another real close matchup here as well though, which makes it seem like the Hasek Bracket is the most competitive bracket of them all.
I totally get how Lehtonen could pull this one out. Lehtonen has always been a talent and ever since he escaped from Atlanta he has been a new man. He’s remade his body around proper nutrition and that’s helped keep him healthy and dominant. It also helps to longer be playing for a moribund franchise. Lehtonen is locked in as a starter who will not only play a lot but produce quality numbers.
Schneider, on the other hand, still has Luongo looming. Many, myself included, is confident that the Canucks can deal Luongo whenever they choose but clearly there is a good portion of the population that isn’t so sure, or at the very least won’t gamble on it. I’m cool with that. You also have to factor in that Schneider may not have the stamina to be a full time starter. His situation is close to the one Rask has in Boston, but there are more question marks and those have caught up to him.
Just to cover all our bases however, I see a lot of people picking Dallas as a real sleeper/contender. I’m not buying this entirely. They are still really young, especially on the blueline. A lot of people look at that youth and see upside but I see growing pains. The Stars really weren’t that good last season. They clutched, grabbed and clawed their way to stay competitive last season. In my eyes they played not to lose rather than to win and it worked in a sense that they weren’t embarrassingly bad but at the same time they clearly weren’t very good either. Whitney and Jagr will help give them some credibility but does the sum total of the Ribeiro and Ott for Roy and Eakin deal push them forwards or backwards for this season. It feels like a backwards move to me.
Ultimately things in Dallas could hinge on whether or not Jamie Benn makes the leap or not. He’s clearly a gifted player but is he the next Rick Nash or can he make like Claude Giroux and kick it up another level. My vote is for something closer to Nash and with a lack of depth and experience on the blueline I think Dallas lingers near the bottom of the conference one more year. I think that if more voters shared this opinion that the vote would have gone a lot differently.
This week will feature the second half of our second round matchups, these ones coming out of the Sawchuk and Dryden Brackets.
This is a solid Northeast Division rivalry. The answer to the question, which goalie is better for this coming season could just as easily be asking, which team will finish higher in the Northeast Division. It’s really that close. So are Miller and the Sabres headed for a bounceback season? Are Anderson and the Senators due for some regression? Let us know!
Division rivalries abound in the Sawchuk Bracket. This time around it’s a Central Division matchup and one with even more question marks. Do you take the part-time starter on the stingy team or the full-time starter on the team that just lost a hall-of-fame defenseman? Decisions indeed!
This one is really simple; do you believe in Dave Tippet’s system or not, because if you don’t well then need I remind you once again about the disaster that was Mike Smith two years ago.
Sure Backstrom’s a factor here but you would have to be swimming in an entire vat of Wild koolaid to take him ahead of Smith if you think what Smith did last season was for real.
Fresh off the first ever shutout* in Cage Match Tournament history, Cam Ward now takes his next challenger.
Remember to cast your votes based on a one-year league with the scoring categories; Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage and Shutouts. Follow the links provided to cast your votes and make your voice heard.
Now let’s take a trip down to Loser Lane…
Last week we introduced four islands upon which our first round losers were banished. We handed you, the people, the power to rescue one goaltender from each island. Let’s see who you voted for:
Semyon Varlamov – 32 votes. Varlamov escapes Salo Island with an emphatic victory over his competitors. The next closest loser had 12 votes cast their way.
Ondrej Pavelec – 33 votes. Pavelec put forth a real “Jacob from LOST”-esque performance in escaping Cheveldae Island, practically coming and going as he pleased and just generally running show.
Martin Brodeur – 27 votes. Can I call BS on this one? I mean, an online vote really does boil down to a popularity contest but let’s get real here. This has nothing to do with Brodeur’s legacy. At this point in his career Brodeur rightfully belongs on an island dedicated to the putrid awfulness that was Vesa Toskala. I say shame on you voters… SHAME!!!
Antti Niemi – 36 votes. Cloutier Island felt way too much like Sesame Street… You know, one of these things is not like the others…
Now that these goaltenders have escaped their respective loser islands they may now take their place on the Tower of Mediocrity! Basically, since it would take forever to run down the exact placement of each goaltender by online voting, it has been decided that each week the four escapees will be placed into tiers on the Tower of Mediocrity to help you get a sense of where each goaltender is valued. It isn’t perfect but it should work.
Three goaltenders remain on each loser island and once again you get the opportunity to vote the best goaltender off. Choose wisely, for we don’t want to topple the Tower of Mediocrity.
Toskala Island – Where no five-hole is big enough!
Cheveldae Island – Where the sun is so hot the even protection from the best roster isn’t enough.
Cloutier Island – Beachballs abound!
Salo Island – Guaranteed to rattle your cage.
Please follow the links provided to cast your votes and make your voice heard!
Also by Laidlaw:
|Cage Match - The Goalie Tourney 5|
|Cage Match - The Goalie Tourney 4|
|Cage Match - The Goalie Tourney 3|
|Cage Match - The Goalie Tourney 2|
|Cage Match - The Goalie Tourney!|
|Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Jimmy Howard|