Thursday, 13 November 2008

Swimming On Ice

I've been looking over some of the statistics for goaltenders who should be considered perennial Vezina Trophy candidates or possible playoff heroes, and it's funny how quickly some have fallen from grace. It looks as though some goalies have lost their moxie, and simply are unable to find what made them so successful in the past. We're talking about goaltenders who had microscopic goals-against-averages or led their team to the Stanley Cup or deep into the playoffs year after year, yet now find themselves lost inside their own creases. Maybe it's just an aberration on their career statistics, but there are a few goalies who are struggling to remain in hockey's upper echelon of the masked men this season.

Miikka Kiprusoff - Calgary Flames: In 16 games thus far this season, Kipper has posted a league-worst 53 goals-against, and a brutal 3.31 GAA. In a very tight Northwest Division, where guys like Luongo and Backstrom are putting up doughnuts in games, Miikka Kiprusoff needs to get himself back into whatever groove it is and start helping his team. Iginla and the offence can light the lamp, but they can't expect to run up the score every night. Kiprusoff needs to start keeping the puck out of the net, and sooner would be much better than later in the competitive Northwest Division.

Marty Turco - Dallas Stars: Whatever was plaguing Turco earlier this season seems to have been relieved as Turco looks to be back on the right track. His team, however, still needs a bigger game from the former Michigan Wolverine as the Stars find themselves 14th in the Western Conference. His stats are getting better, but they still aren't Turco-esque. This could be a bleak season in the Big-Dee if the Stars can't turn the corner soon. No one expected to have a lottery pick after last season's showing in the playoffs. And no one, especially Turco, expected to start the season as poorly as the Stars did.

Jose Theodore - Washington Capitals: Theodore was brought in to replace Cristobal Huet as the top stopper in Washington. The problem is that he hasn't done much of that "stopping" stuff. In nine games, Theodore has a brutal 3.16 GAA and hasn't looked comfortable whatsoever. The 2002 Vezina Trophy winner has been nowhere close to his 2002 stats since he won the Vezina Trophy, and he's been shuffled out of Montreal and Denver after his play wore thin. With Brent Johnson shouldering the load in Washington, how long will the Capitals put up with his meagre play?

Tomas Vokoun - Florida Panthers: Vokoun posted excellent numbers in Nashville as recently as the 2006-07 season, but has seen his GAA go up in the following two seasons. Playing for a relatively weak team in Miami hasn't helped his statistics, but he also hasn't shown the game-stealing abilities he flashed in Nashville. His 3-7 record this season is reflective of his 3.02 GAA, and there's no reason why his GAA won't go up. Florida is a bad team defensively, and, with the way Vokoun is fighting the puck this season, this might turn out to be Florida's worst campaign in franchise history.

Martin Biron - Philadelphia Flyers: Watching Martin Biron shutdown the potent Montreal Canadiens last year in the playoffs, one had to expect big things from the Flyers this season. In 11 games thus far, Biron has impressed no one. His 3.33 GAA is horrible, he's allowing one goal on every nine shots, and he has looked lost out on the ice most nights. If it weren't for the abysmal play of the New York Islanders, the Flyers would be battling for the basement in the Eastern Conference. And this from a team that was thought to have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup this year? Not with Biron playing like he's allergic to the puck.

So what's wrong with these goalies? I can't answer that question. It could be age as these guys start seeing their reaction times slow ever so slightly. It could be psychological where they can't find that focus and concentration at this early point in the season. Or it could be something else altogether.

What I do know is this: their teams need them to start playing like they were expected to. All five of these teams are free-falling down the standings, and every loss early in the season can haunt you late in the season. Two points now could be the difference between playing in the post-season, and watching it on TV. Let's hope that all five of these men aren't on the downside of their careers just yet.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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