At first glance, the so-called “goalie controversies” around the NHL right now (Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Toronto) are played off like tumultuous situations in which unhappy coaches are forcing their unhappy netminders to battle for playing time. Even the word “controversy” conjures up images of aggravation and discontent. This stigma is mainly due to the mainstream media, which love and live for this mangled term we’ve come to know as “controversy”. It sells papers - it heightens ratings.
But look much closer and you’ll notice that this perception is quickly being (and must be) shred apart like a raw, bloody steak in the midst of a ravenous wolf pack. It’s changing into the belief that teams can be successful with the continued use of both goalies. Teams no longer depend on the “starter” for the entire season, as more and more “backups” are capable of going on a starter-like hot streak.
So instead of the “starter” and the “backup”, teams really have Goalie A and Goalie B. This is partially due to parity, as more and more teams go through ups and downs, positive and negative phases throughout the season. On top of that, goalies are creatures of habit - they are prone to struggle, succeed, falter or surpass expectations - so even the best fall victim to inconsistency from time to time.
As a fantasy hockey owner, you should know there’s actually no such thing as a controversy. Both goalies are there to win games and to TRY and play consistently. Of course they want to play every game, but winning is more important than anything. If they don’t happen to like each other as people, they keep it away from the rink and the press. Goaltenders are professionals and conduct themselves in a quiet manner when it comes to the emotions and hearsay of the media’s so-called controversy.
In fact, the evolution of this “two-goalie” system (or tandem) has evolved to the point where teams and coaches build their roster and depth charts with three or four promising, youthful goaltenders that are capable of playing solid when the so-called starter begins to struggle or gets injured. Head coaches are always aiming for consistency, so a youngster will almost always get a chance to be the starter, even if only for a few weeks. If they can take a hold of the reigns and string together some consistent games when given the opportunity, then they will play more games. Riding the hot goalie is more and more an acceptable practice in the NHL and it should be.
As far as rookies go, Atlanta’s Ondrej Pavelec, Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bernier and Montreal’s Carey Price have all come in and played outstanding hockey, proving they are capable of being “starting” goaltenders. They’re all capable of playing consistently and playing against the best teams in the league.
And yes, there’s still plenty of “minute-monsters” and clear-cut No.1 goalies, like Pascal Leclaire, Miikka Kiprusoff, Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov in the Western Conference and Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist and Rick DiPietro in the East, but it’s also quite obvious that the number of teams using both goaltenders in their lineup continues to increase.
As I have said in weeks past (and above), each team has a unique situation that depends on the goalies in the system. You can’t read two teams the same exact way. The “controversy” in Toronto is not the same “controversy” in Colorado. You have to dissect the situation, read box scores and analyze games. Here are just a few examples of the two-goalie system working successfully:
Dallas’ Mike Smith has allowed only four goals in four straight victories, which is proof of his current consistency as Marty Turco battles to stay mentally focused. Smith was amazing in leading the Stars to a 3-2 road victory on Sunday against the Rangers behind a tyrannous 41-save performance.
The Colorado Avalanche has incorporated a tandem for the entire month of November, as Jose Theodore and Peter Budaj will switch off games until one of them finally takes the bull by the horns. Theodore is starting to cool off though, as he lost his first home game of the season on Saturday in a lop-sided 5-2 defeat to the Calgary Flames.
The Detroit Red Wings continue to roll with the surprise of the season, Chris Osgood (10-1-1) over Dominik Hasek (5-5-2). I still believe that Hasek is hiding some kind of nagging injury.
The Edmonton Oilers are looking mighty smart for signing Mathieu Garon and giving him the opportunities to strut his stuff. Garon is capable of playing 60+ games, as he did with the Los Angeles Kings just a few seasons ago.
Minnesota is thankful for Josh Harding’s services since they have really slowed down after a fast start. Will they be forced to return to the tandem situation they incorporated for so many years with Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson?
*ENDNOTE* - I realize that most of my examples are from the Western Conference. The reason for this? The Golden Rule of writing: “Write what you know.” It may not seem fair at first, but my location (Colorado) means I mainly follow teams in the West. I do watch the Eastern Conference on a regular basis, but do not analyze the teams on a level that matches the West. It’s about quality, not quantity.
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