Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Show 'Em How It's Done, Coach!

As much as some wouldn't like to believe it, goaltending coaches play a large part in a team's success in hockey. They're the guys trying to help the last line of defence - the goalies - in helping them minimize weaknesses while maximizing strengths. Like any good coach, they have intimate knowledge of how to play the position and are often former NHL goalies themselves. Some goalie coaches have revitalized careers while others have turned average goalies into stars. Robb Tallas, seen to the left, is the goaltending coach for the Florida Panthers, and he was asked to help Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya in order for the Panthers to have a shot at the playoffs this season. However, I'm pretty sure he never thought he'd be asked to stop pucks in helping the Panthers on their quest for a playoff spot!

Tonight, though, we got to see the emergency goaltender pressed into duty. Well, close to being pressed into duty. Roberto Luongo started the game, and he decided to remove himself from the game as a precautionary measure after taking a high shot in the neck/shoulder area from Toronto's Leo Komarov. That, of course, meant that Al Montoya took over for Luongo. Montoya held his own in the second period, but injured his groin severely enough early in the third period that he also had to come out of the game. If you're counting the number of goalies injured for the Panthers, that's two. And that's all you're allowed to dress in the NHL for any game.

So how did the Panthers solve their goaltending woes? No, they didn't play with six skaters and an open net. Instead, this graphic tells the story, and you should note the two guys on the right. Derek MacKenzie, a forward, left the bench and was going to strap on the pads. Scottie Upshall joined him as the team frantically searched for anyone with puck-stopping abilities. Robb Tallas was thrust into action as the only true goalie left in the dressing room after Luongo and Montoya left with injuries!

With the game stopped, Montoya decided that he couldn't put the team in dire straits with a playoff spot on the line, so he returned to the ice. Visibly, you could tell he was laboring as he went back to the blue paint. That's when Tallas came down to the rink wearing full goalie garb in jersey #31!

For his appearance, Tallas signed a contract that paid him $500 in order to fulfill the emergency goaltender rules set out by the NHL. Tallas was ready to head back into the nets for the first time since 2005 and into an NHL net for the first time since 2001! The only problem? Luongo heard what was happening while he was at the hospital having his shoulder checked out, and he made his way back to BT&T Center to play the remaining 9:08 of the third period after relieving the injured-but-playing Montoya.

Robb Tallas? He got to sit as the back-up goaltender in his #31 jersey for the remainder of the game.

You might think this whole sequence of events is pretty crazy, but Robb Tallas has actually done this before! We go back to March 3, 2013 - cue the Twilight Zone music - when Robb Tallas took to the ice once more for the Panthers after a goaltending snafu. Jose Theodore had injured his groin against Carolina, and the Panthers called up Jacob Markstrom from San Antonio. Markstrom arrived, but his equipment didn't as United Airlines misplaced his bags. The Panthers needed a goalie, and they turned to goaltending coach Tallas.
Tallas wore an old Luongo #1 jersey with his name on the back as the back-up netminder in 2013 as Scott Clemmensen started the game. Markstrom's equipment would arrive midway through the first period, but rosters had been set so Tallas finished the game. He didn't appear, but he got to wear the uniform!

After the game, Tallas tweeted out a pretty funny comment.
In the end, Tallas' suiting up had no effect on the game as the injured Montoya gave up all three goals in a 3-2 loss to the Leafs. It's probably pretty comforting to the Panthers to know that they have a guy who can fill in if things go off the rails in the crease again. In saying that, I'm not sure that the 41 year-old Tallas wants a starting NHL job at this point in his career.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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