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NHL Goalies Part IV and What’s Up with the Washington Capitals?

September 29, 2008

I’ve had to break-up my NHL goalie pre-season review into several entries, but I believe, in this entry, I can get to all the rest of the goalies, currently on an NHL roster, who you will most likely see play at least one NHL game in the 2008-09 hockey season. I do have an entry ready that lists all the goalies on an NHL roster for the upcoming season, but I have discovered that many of the 30 NHL teams have not updated their official websites properly, so I suspect that because of this, the summary of all 30 NHL goaltending rosters will have to wait until the season begins and the sites get updated regularly again. Until, then, I will get to “His Goaliness”, Martin Brodeur.

The New Jersey Devils are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. Whether or not anyone would ever say it out loud, the Devils have a team that is built around a single player, and that player is their netminder, Brodeur. I know that many people could find a way to argue this point with me if they had a chance. No matter, I don’t think anyone could talk me out of thinking it anyway. Kevin Weekes seems to be in holding pattern as Brodeur’s back-up, and in my mind, NJ is one of the very few teams in today’s NHL that is still strongest with one starter, and one back-up. I am not sure how much longer Martin Brodeur will be an NHL goalie, but I am sure he’s got at least one great season left in him. Let’s face it, he’s recently hit the 500th win mark, and aside from Patrick Roy (as of Sept. ’08), no NHL goaltender has ever reached that goal.

Roberto Luongo is heading into his third season as a Canuck and his back-up, Curtis Sanford, is heading into his fourth. In this case, I have to pull the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” card, as far as Vancouver’s goaltending roster appears to me. I haven’t seen a lot of Sanford, but I have seen a good bit of Luongo and he has been more solid than many NHL goalies of his age, so improvement is a high probability the longer he stays with a single team. The Canucks have some fundamental problems that wouldn’t be fixed even if they had “His Goaliness” and Patrick Roy on their roster. I’m pulling for a big season from Luongo.

Rick DiPietro, who had hip surgery that ended his last season in March, has made a good fit for the Islanders. However, I can’t go without saying – “It is broke, so you should really fix it.” I am not sure if I just notice it more when I watch the Islanders play, but both of their rostered netminders tend to make plays that stress their bodies more than they should. I am noy unaware that the “Butterfly” style is very popular in the NHL right now. I can’t say I would push it to a young goaltender if given the opportunity. Both DiPietro from USA and his back-up, Wade Bubielewicz from Canada spread and manipulate limbs in ways that have a high probability of damaging their hips or backs. DiPietro has already shown that it can happen. Aside from their styles, at least the Islanders have a lefty and righty, and the two have worked together for a while. I think, however, if I had to chose one team in the NHL right now that absolutely needs to be worried that they do not have a third goaltender on the roster, the Islanders would win that prize.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a pair of goalies, Pascal LeClaire (CAN) and Fredrik Norrena (FIN). Both are lefty’s and both are goalies I don’t get a chance to see very often. I have read a good bit about LeClaire. I can’t opine much in this case, but I can say that the Blue Jackets seem to me to be another one of those teams that need to focus on other issues, before making any sudden goaltending changes. Generally speaking though, I think the duo can carry a good season if given the opportunity. Good luck to the Blue Jackets.

The Carolina Hurricanes found themselves a goalie “gem” when they got Cam Ward. Ward’s second NHL season wasn’t what he expected it to be, and probably not his third either, but he, Like Ryan Miller in Buffalo, has made the appropriate changes and has learned as he goes. I think Carey Price will fit into this category as well. Now, Ward will be the main again – but this time he’s got a road-veteran as his back-up. Michael Leighton was drafted in 1999 and has since been with four different NHL teams, playing mostly in the minors. I will have to spend some time watching the Canes, but it looks like a good match from the outset. I will make it a point to revisit the Cane’s netminders a couple of months or so into the season.

Vokoun and Anderson are the two netminders listed on the Florida Panther’s roster. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen Craig Anderson play, so I’d have to catch a few games while he’s in the net before I could even think about commenting on his goaltending prowess. Tomas Vokoun, who like DiPietro of the Islanders, is a starting goalie who is a righty (as in the catching hand). Of course, so is the starter for my good old Washington Capitals. There aren’t very many right-handed starting netminders. There also aren’t very many Czech goalies either. Being both a right-handed catcher and a goaltender trained in the Czech Republic, makes Vokoun a very unigue goalie in terms of style. Because of this, I can say that his innate abilities are tremendous. It may not be that he will be ranked with the “elite” crowd, but if can get in the net for a team that doesn’t lose more often than it wins, he’ll get his job done better than most.

At the time that I am writing this entry, the LA Kings have SEVEN goalies listed on their roster. Upon first glance, I have to believe that what is posted at the roster, is not actually the roster. I did do some checking and discovered that the Kings do not have a roster that is SEVEN netminders deep. They have two rostered netminders, Jason Labarbera and Erik Ersberg. I was very impressed with Labarbera the first few times he defended the net in NHL games. He has made the LA Roster as a starter, so it looks like a good start to his career. Ersberg, won his spot and he will most likely have his meddle tested sometime this season. I will also have to check in on LA a bit later on in the season.

I have a soft-spot for the Coyotes, somewhat like I do for the Wild. I still like watching Gretzky in action, and even though I give Darren Pang (or Panger – if you like) a bunch of crap when I blog sometimes, I still can’t not appreciate his enthusiasm. Plus, he was a goalie, so he scored points there as well. Phoenix has one of several goalie”qvists” in the NHL. Mikael Tellqvist has not performed as well as some of the other goalie”qvists”. It’s hard to see him having a stellar NHL career. Ilya Bryzgalov, on the other hand, has netminder written all over him. Maybe Phoenix is where he needs to be, but if he finds the right team, I think this Russian-born netminder will do better than average as an NHL goalie.

Last season I had thought that perhaps Alex Auld would make a good netminding fit for the Coyotes, but he was traded. I am not certain of the details surrounding the trade, but I was hoping for both Auld and Phoenix that a good relationship between the two would come to fruition. Still, I think Auld is in a great spot now, considering Gerber will most likely not play as many games as some may believe he will. That seems to be a pattern, thus far.

Last, but no where near least, I will get to Manny Legace. He rode the bench for a long-time for Detroit and even went back to the minors before finding a place with the St. Louis Blues. I pull for him always. He may not have a long and illustrious NHL netminding career, but he deserves to end his career on an NHL roster. He is in good company with the Swedish native, Hannu Toivonen. While it appears, at the moment, that Legace will be the #1 starter and Toivonen will ride the bench as a back-up. Depending on on how the Blues season progresses, I can imagine, Toivonen and Lagace will become more of a complimentary duo, rather than simply a starter and a back-up. Either that, or Toivonen will not stay with the Blues for the entire season.

I mentiond the followig two possibilities for the Blues, because in this case, and only with this specific team, I have some “inside” information that the average hockey fan most likely would not have. I cannot, and more importantly, will not, post the information in a public forum such as this. I will, however, say that several AHL netminders, and both the Blues NHL netminders may have the opportunity to fill a whole that will be created elsewhere very soon. Goalies get injured, some retire, some get traded, others get screwed and decide to move-on to another team, and in some rare cases, they make it to the NHL and the “anger” that helps them do their job can’t controlled and they have to play in another league because of it.

My next entry will include an brief review of all the NHL rostered goalies for the upcoming. Places like ESPN.com and NHL.com tend to focus on netminders who are predicted to play 27-30 NHL games each season. I tend to look a little deeper and include as many netminders as is possible for me who will play at least ONE NHL game this season. Since I do not get paid to do this and since I do not have the technological advantages that I had in the past, I can assure everyone that I will miss a few goaltenders who fit into my criteria. However, I think throughout the season, I will most likely mention at least 84 goalies along the way.

To move onto one of my favorite subjects, Washington Capitals Hockey, I will begin with Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson. Those of you who have read some of my previous entries on this blog already know that I wasn’t happy with the way goalies came and went over the last year. By that I mean, Huet came on board, Kolzig got shafted and neither one of those two are in DC now. It took me most of the summer to get beyond all that, and now I am truly excited to see Theodore in action and I get a very strong feeling that Brent Johnson will have a make or break season. I’m leaning toward “the make”, rather than “the break”. I’m behind Theodore all the way as well. He’s got goaliness in spades, and from the looks of the Capitals defense this year, it looks promising that he’ll have a sound defense in front of him this year.

I do love my Capitals, but they are just as guilty as many of the NHL teams of having last season’s roster listed on the main web page of their site. If one were to go to the top tabs on the page and click on “Team” – the updated and most current roster can be found there – as is the case with most of the NHL official team websites. On the capitals current roster, there is a third goalie listed – Simeon Varlmalov. I did get a very brief chance to see all three netminders during this pre-season. From what I understand, he has played in the Russian Super League, which is in itself a good indicator of his abilities. It will be highly unlikely that I’ll see him in a Capitals Jersey between the pipes in an NHL game this year, but it is good to know that the Captitals have a very stable and well-balanced goalie situation at the start of the season.

I sometimes feel as though I’m not giving Alexander Ovechkin the praise he deserves when I blog. When I think about it though, I have to remind myself, and now you the reader, that Alex is a rare and enthusiastic talent who will be mentioned and praised for years to come by almost anyone who knows anything about NHL Hockey whatsoever. If I neglect to do so, it isn’t because I don’t thank the “hockey gods” for Washington’s gift in the form of #8, it is because he isn’t the only one on the team and I am just as impressed with Semin, Nylander, Backstrom and Bradley – but for different reasons.

Matt Bradley is pretty awsome to me for many reasons, some having nothing to do with hockey. He is an openly environmentally conscience person. He is a hard, hard worker. Game in and game out, he was working – hard. I’m glad he’s back. I’m glad he’s on our team (yes, I do think of the Capitals as mine and that’s not likely to change).

I think Semin is just fantastic. He’s got some serious skills. He is more quiet than the other Alex (#8) and he had some difficulty that involved the Capitals and his agent very early on in his career, so he commonly gets overlooked. I’m a big fan of Semin.

I’ve been at this for a bit too long today and I have to watch some more goalies before the end of the day so off I go – CO CAPS! NHL HOCKEY ROCKS!

As thrilled as I was to learn that Ovie will be with the Caps for 13 years – I think a bigger part of me was thrilled to learn that Federov is now a Washington Capital – at least for the upcoming season.

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