Tag: goalies

Al Montoya

Injured Islanders goalie: NHL needs better goalie protection


Add Al Montoya to the list of netminders displeased with the NHL’s goaltender protection policy.

The New York Islanders goalie has been out since Dec. 21, when he suffered a concussion after getting bowled over by Winnipeg’s Evander Kane. Here’s the hit in question:

Kane got a two-minute goalie interference penalty (which, as the video illustrates, he didn’t agree with); Montoya left the game immediately and has yet to return to action. While he’s resumed on-ice workouts and slowly recovering from his concussion, Montoya still clearly harbors some resentment over the way he got concussed.

“If you’re telling me that a guy can lead with his stick like that, make contact to someone’s head and all he gets is a two-minute penalty? And the goaltender’s out two weeks? That’s a pretty minor penalty for something like that,” Montoya told Newsday. “I go down in my crease not expecting to get run over. No goaltender does. You have to be able to do that without thinking you’ll get a stick to the face.”

The Kane-Montoya collision was just the latest instance of player-on-goalie violence. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has twice been bowled over this season (once by Milan Lucic, one by Jordin Tootoo) and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard has repeatedly spoken out about an increase in physical contact.

“They’ve got to look at that situation again,” Montoya said. “There has to be a point where a guy who’s driving to the net has to be able to pull up and back off.”

Tim Thomas needs one save in Game 7 to pass Kirk McLean for the most in one playoff run

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Every now and then, a stat falls into place so perfectly it almost seems predestined. That’s how it felt to see Tim Thomas’ total of 36 saves in the Boston Bruins’ 5-2 Game 6 beating of the Vancouver Canucks.

In case you weren’t keeping track of somewhat obscure (but far from irrelevant) playoff records, those 36 saves put Thomas in a tie with former Canucks goalie Kirk McLean for the most saves in a single playoff run. Both Thomas and McLean managed 761 saves in their impressive postseason outputs.

Interestingly enough, Thomas and McLean also earned those 761 saves in 24 games played. Their overall numbers are a little different (Thomas has a .937 save percentage and 2.07 GAA while McLean had a .928 save percentage and 2.29 GAA), but they both helped their teams reach unexpectedly higher levels. A lot of times it’s easy to downplay a great goaltending run by saying that the netminder benefited from superlative defense. Thomas and McLean’s workloads (and impressive stats) show that they simply transcended the numerous challenges they faced.

Barring a rather stunning calamity, Thomas will pass McLean for that record very early in Game 7 (and probably cushion his lead with about 20-30 saves if he plays well). It doesn’t take an expert to say that Thomas hopes to surpass his busy predecessor in another more important way, though: he hopes to be on the winning end of a Stanley Cup finals Game 7 instead.

With Bryzgalov’s rights traded, Coyotes face three roads to goaltending solution

Don Maloney

Whenever a goalie jumps onto the scene, there’s at least a thought given to the idea that his success might have something to do with his system. In the case of former Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, that idea seemed half-decent until you realize that the ‘Yotes defense wasn’t as stout as it appeared. Bryzgalov helped the team to a sixth seed stance even though Phoenix allowed 32.6 shots per regular season game, the third highest total in the NHL.*

As much as the Coyotes semi-renaissance amid ownership struggles has to do with the coaching of Dave Tippett, it’s not a coincidence that the upswing happened once the team found its best goalie since Nikolai Khabibulin was a young Russian holding out for more money. With just so-so backup Jason LaBarbera locked up for the near future, the scary question is: what will the cash-strapped Coyotes do about their goaltending situation?

Phoenix GM Don Maloney explained his “three-pronged strategy” for replacing Bryzgalov to the Arizona Republic.

– Acquiring a top young player via trade: “There’s three or four in other organizations that may be available in a trade that would cost a good asset but may potentially solidify your goaltending for a long time; that’s one obvious way to look at it.”

Young goalies who could conceivably be in play include Vancouver’s Cory Schneider, Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier and maybe even Philly goalie Sergei Bobrovsky if things get really weird. The problem with those options is that they haven’t proven they can carry the No. 1 workload, which was less of a question with Breezy, who won two first round series in his time as a great Anaheim Ducks’ No. 2.

– Signing an unrestricted free agent: “There’s two or three players in that grouping that we like. We think in our system with (goaltending coach) Sean Burke would be good fits for us.”

The most obvious answer – one that AZ Republic writer Jim Gintonio also notes – is Tomas Vokoun. He’s been a stats blogger’s darling for putting up consistently great save percentage stats while he wallowed in obscurity in Sunrise, Florida. He could be the kind of guy who could maintain or even improve upon their netminding, although he’s aging and will likely come at a hefty price.

– Bringing in an experienced goaltender: “I’ve had a couple conversations (this week) regarding some very good established goaltenders on other clubs that for financial reasons they might be looking to make some changes.”

This is an interesting option, though it’s tough to tell who Maloney might be thinking of. Unless Bryzgalov’s asking price was truly as exorbitant as the Coyotes claim, it’s hard to imagine the franchise being too comfortable paying Miikka Kiprusoff (random example) $5.83 million per year.


While Phoenix’s goalie scenario still seems murky, it does seem like they have options. The key will be to find the right guy at the right price, but perhaps most importantly add better players around that netminder. The Detroit Red Wings embarrassed the Coyotes in the first round this year, and while many blamed Bryzgalov, it was obvious that the talent disparity was severe.

We’ll keep you informed about the Coyotes maneuverings for a netminder during what could be an interesting summer at the position.

* – The Boston Bruins allowed the second highest total (32.7) while the Carolina Hurricanes allowed the most (33.2). The fact that Tim Thomas regularly cleaned up Boston’s mistakes in the regular season as well makes his Vezina Trophy nomination (and save percentage record) that much more impressive.

Roberto Luongo has a slight edge on Tim Thomas through two games

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Two

It might be a bit of a stretch to hype a “matchup” between goalies Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo in these Stanley Cup finals. After all, the two netminders are really dueling with Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks shooters, not pucks sent off each others’ sticks. Technically, it’s not really about Thomas vs. Luongo; it’s Thomas vs. the Canucks against Luongo vs. the Bruins.

Then again, looking at the situation is entirely less fun, isn’t it? Ultimately, most writers and fans will perceive each goalie’s performance in association with the opposition output.

Thomas receives the most attention because the Bruins are viewed as the lesser team (and because his acrobatic, almost anarchic style tends to steal the spotlight, too). Fair or not, Luongo’s successes seem to be obscured because of the superior cast around him, letting the pitfalls and triumphs of his counterpart’s aggressiveness snatch the headlines.

Yet through two skin-tight games, these two very different goalies have given us the performances we expected.

Luongo’s path from passivity

During the off-season, I wondered if the Canucks were messing with a good thing by asking Luongo to play deeper in his crease after years of using his size further out of his net. Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild disagreed with my gut reaction and it looks like his instincts were dead-on.

Goldman shared three keys to Luongo’s success in a column for NHL.com. After explaining that decision making is the first major factor that distinguishes goalies on the elite level, Goldman discusses two other reasons Luongo is on top of his game.

2. Because Luongo plays a patient butterfly style deeper in his crease, he’s forced to make better decisions on when to employ a positional blocking save and when to make a reaction save. As a result, he has essentially gone from being a more “passive” goalie to having more “active” save selections in his game.

3. This reveals the fact that Luongo has the ability to balance his skill-set with an equal number of blocking and reacting skills. This balance, which could be considered like having an ambidextrous mind, is crucial to the read-and-react butterfly style that continues to be incorporated in today’s successful and elite NHL goaltender.

The danger of doubting Thomas

On Boston’s end, Thomas sprawls and flails, leaving us gasping for air as he stops pucks that seem predestined for twine. We cringe at his rare – but occasionally fatal – lapses, perhaps ignoring the fact that his style is the clearest “live by the sword, die by the sword” paradigm in the increasingly homogenous profession that is NHL netminding.

Those two last minute goals may end up crushing the Bruins, but this team – and more precisely, this goalie – rolls with punches without taking much time to flinch. Thomas didn’t get to the NHL by giving up easily, an attitude that is revealed every time he makes another downright irrational stop.

Goldman points out some of the high points of his Game 2.

Thomas’ absorption rate was through the roof in Game 2. This ability to collapse and condense his upper body in order to “soak up” shots above the waist was very impressive. It was a visible sign that he was focused and relaxed for Game 2. It also proved just how well he mentally prepared from the end of Game 1 to the start of Saturday night’s showdown. Aside from Alex Burrows’ first goal, no pucks got through Thomas — not even deflections or tipped shots.

Decision making has been the difference so far

Ultimately, Luongo’s more economical game meant less highlight reel saves through the first two contests, but also less back-breaking goals allowed. I think it’s wrong to badmouth Thomas for being who he is – especially since it works most of the time – but those little mistakes have been the difference so far. Goldman agrees on that point.

… I feel that Luongo has a slight edge on Thomas in regards to their decision-making in the Stanley Cup Final. Luongo has made the more conservative decisions so far, and that has proved to be more successful, especially in light of Thomas’ decision in overtime of Game 2.


Of course, two games is a small sample and Thomas seems to get better as the games get bigger. We’ll see which goalie wins Round 3 tonight.

Vancouver Canucks edge Florida Panthers 2-1

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Vancouver 2, Florida 1

You have to wonder if there was at least a small part of Roberto Luongo that felt bad for opposing goalie Tomas Vokoun.

After all, just a few years ago, Luongo was the ace Florida Panthers goalie who saw more rubber than a busy highway game after game and stopped most of those shots, only the team in front of him wasn’t strong enough to do much with his efforts anyway. Eventually Luongo was traded from the Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks in a laughable swap that included Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld and now must worry about being blamed for losses instead of being the one bright spot in a grim situation.

Whether there was empathy or not, Luongo and the Canucks left tonight’s game with a narrow win. He stopped 41 out of 42 shots as it seems like he’s responding well to the reduced pressure of losing the captaincy (not to mention the Canucks’ hiring a new goalie coach in Roland Melanson) while Vokoun stopped 33 out of 35.

Daniel Sedin scored both of Vancouver’s goals, each one assisted by his brother Henrik and fellow Swede Mikael Samuelsson. Rostislav Olesz scored the Panthers’ lone goal with assists from Mike Santorelli and Cory Stillman. The Canucks managed to win without getting a single power play while the Panthers went 0-for-3.

It’s obviously early, but the Canucks are playing well – particularly Luongo – as they begin with a 1-0-1 mark. Florida must wonder if they’re off to another slow start as the team begins the season 0-2. Again, judging too much of the events at this point is hasty, but I still wonder if Vokoun will follow in Luongo’s footsteps and end up getting traded to a contender before the season is over.