Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't Blame the Goalie (a piece I wrote back in February but didn't have my blog yet)

I am going to start off by saying that I am an amature goalie and a huge hockey fan. Watching NHL and Olympics, or even AHL and NCAA you see some outstanding goaltending. My general opinion is not to blame the goalie for a loss.

Sometimes it seems as though, unless a goalie has the game of their career, such as Ben Scrivens’s 59 save shutout or Carey Price’s two consecutive shutouts en route to an Olympic Gold, the goalie gets all of the blame and none of the credit.

I really started noticing this during last season’s NHL playoffs, coming from all different sides. Montréal fans saying that Carey Price couldn’t perform under pressure and lost that series. Carey Price had many highlight roll saves in that series, about half of the Canadiens were injured in the series, including Carey Price in the third period of the decisive game 5, which Ottawa won in overtime. The very next season, when you put the solid lineup of Team Canada in front of him, Carey Price shuts out the United States in the semifinals and Sweden in the gold medal game to win an Olympic Gold and the Best Goaltender award.

Also in the 2013 playoffs, in the finals, there was a game where Corey Crawford allowed five goals, all glove side, and the talk everywhere I turned was that Corey Crawford’s glove was horrible. Tuukka Rask allowed six. Corey Crawford would go on to win the Jennings Trophy and the Stanley Cup and be invited to train with Team Canada. Tuukka Rask would go on to win a bronze medal with Finland, including shutting out Team USA in the bronze medal game. It is safe to say, neither goalie is at fault for that game where a total of 11 goals were scored.

Yes, there are times where goaltending can make or break a team, that is why things like Latvia advancing as far as they did (they had an AHL goaltender in net who performed beyond expectations, the day after the Olympics he was called up) and Ben Scrivens having a 59 save shutout are amazing. However, teams like the Blackhawks, the Canadiens, the Penguins and the Canucks, where I have seen goalies be blamed for losses, are not countries with one active NHL player on their roster or last place in their division. All four teams made the playoffs last year, three of them have finished at the top of their conference within the past two complete NHL seasons.

Being primarily a Blackhawks and Canadiens fan, I have seen many games where Corey Crawford or Carey Price has played his heart out and made many highlight reel saves. When those games are wins, they are celebrated, when they are losses, they are blamed. Corey Crawford spent years in Norfolk then Rockford proving himself. When he made it to the NHL he became a starter that season. He has won the Stanley Cup, won the Jennings Trophy and trained with Team Canada. It is clear the Montréal Canadiens are still rebuilding, so Carey Price has yet to find postseason success in the NHL. However, competing for Team Canada, where he has a solid team in front of him, he is 11-0-0 (combining 2007 World Juniors and 2014 Olympics). Both competitions, he helped Canada win Gold and Received the Best Goaltender award, in 2007 he was also MVP.

Before you blame the goalie, such as Corey Crawford, Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Marc-André Fleury or Tuukka Rask, look what they have. A President’s Trophy, a Stanley Cup and a Jennings Trophy. An Olympic Gold and Olympic Best Goaltender. Two Olympic Golds, a Western Conference Championship and a President’s Trophy. A Stanley Cup and an Olympic Gold. A Stanley Cup and an Olympic Bronze. Chances are, if a goalie is that decorated, and (as in all those cases) the decoration is recent (within the past 5 calendar years for them) they must be doing something right.

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