So you’ve been told not to panic (probably by me) about some big-name goaltenders that started off the season in a funk. But now it’s almost a month into the season and a handful of the elite goalies are making even the most confident fantasy hockey managers start to squirm.
What the heck is going on with the Big Three? I speak, of course, of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff. Are they slowly starting to devolve in a world of swift goalie evolution? What is there to say about their despicable records and inflated numbers? Is it the team in front of them? Is this really just a “slow start” or is it something much more serious?
While it’s tough to tell what the exact problems are at this point in time, I’ll try to help you understand their situations a little better so you can make your own diagnosis on their “sickness.” So let’s put them under the microscope to see what we can figure out.
Martin Brodeur (2-6-0, 3.28, .877, 26.5 shots per game)
Is his struggle something as simple as nine straight road games to start the season or could it be his team transitioning to a new system of play under head coach Brent Sutter? Whatever you think the reason is for his slow start, it’s quite obvious that Brodeur can’t keep a consistent level of intensity going for 60 minutes. For a goalie that thrives on playing strong when seeing a low amount of shots, Brodeur has only allowed two goals or less in two of his first eight games. Yikes.
New Jersey’s first home game at “The Rock” was a great chance to change the tides of their torrid start (they’ve only scored 21 goals in ten games and Brodeur has allowed 26 in eight games), but a third-period meltdown against Ottawa quickly brought back some creepy road-trip memories.
"It's like a mental block,” Brodeur said to reporters after the game. “We come out and play strong in the first, battle to 1-1, and then they score and it's like ‘here we go again.’ We gotta get over that hump."
That hump is more like a mountain right now, so don’t expect a turnaround to happen overnight. This fight for consistency is not an easy fix for any team, so it honestly looks to be a slow, painful winter for Brodeur and the Devils. And while this is to be expected with a team that plays a trap style of defensive hockey for over a decade, only to see it change promptly with the arrival of a new head coach, Brodeur is certainly not worth trading just yet. But he’s not worth playing every single night either, so keep an eye on his opponents and save yourself the nightly torment for now.
Roberto Luongo (4-7-0, 2.92, .900, 27.9 shots per game)
Although you certainly can’t fault Luongo for Vancouver’s 1-5 start at home, he’s only faced 300 shots in 11 games. Do the math - it’s not like he’s facing the same demons from his days in Florida. Has it become a situation where more shots and a greater workload are better for Luongo? This remains unseen for now, but be rest assured that Luongo has looked quite human so far this year.
He just failed the biggest test of the season last night against Detroit. Although the previous two games were much better for Luongo, he allowed a pair of pretty bad goals against the Wings. The first was a rebound goal to his arch-nemesis Tomas Holmstrom just 12 seconds after Matt Cooke gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead and while he stayed strong through the rest of the period, he bit really hard on a 2-on-1 play with less than 20 seconds left in the period and Mikael Samuelsson scored on a wide open net. And just when things started coming together for the Canucks, Luongo gets beat in close just over the glove on a terrific play by Jiri Hudler, again with under a minute remaining in the second period.
So similar to Brodeur, the focus is just not there right now. He’s still making some tremendous saves, but the problem is that he’s not making the timely saves. The difference is one-goal losses, two of them coming against the Red Wings. Luongo has been pulled once and has only allowed two goals or less in four games – two against Edmonton, then Carolina and then most recently, Washington.
Miikka Kiprusoff (5-3-3, 3.15, .879, 25.65 shots per game)
Miikka has allowed three or more goals in every single game except for an easy night against lowly Edmonton on October 20 and an OT victory against Dallas on October 12.
Similar to Brodeur’s situation in New Jersey, Kipper could be struggling thanks to a team transitioning under a new head coach. But it’s more likely that Calgary is quickly being severely downgraded in a division that never seems to lose. Unlike the other two goalies, Kiprusoff is on a team that simply seems to lack a true identity.
Add to the mix the contract negotiations for an extension to his current deal and it seems as if Kipper is more of a scapegoat right now than anything else. Expect his numbers to get better as November rolls along and the Flames really find themselves.