Examining the Playoff Goalies
First a look at the playoff and possibly playoff bound goalies.
The Goalies – The backups included where some form of goal controversy may arise.
The Playoff Goaltending Situation
There are currently 3 goalies in the NHL who have won a Stanley Cup, Dominik Hasek notwithstanding. Those keepers, for the uneducated, are Ed Belfour, Martin Brodeur, and Chris Osgood. The only active net-minder who has won the cup more once is Brodeur.
The “Proven” Goalie Debate
I coin this a debate because analysts insist that a team cannot win with an “unproven” goaltender and fans of the game point to Patrick Roy as an example of an “unproven” goalie who won the cup. As with so much in this life, both of these points of view turn out to be over simplifications of the reality. Patrick Roy is an anomaly; “proven” is a subjective point of view or perhaps even an opinion.
Patrick Roy is the only goalie in the past 15 years to have won without having playoff experience. Roy’s official stats list him as having played in 20 playoff games in 1986, the first year he won the cup… the first year he played in the playoffs. As of this writing, we have 7 possible goalies entering the playoffs with 1 playoff game of experience or less (Raycroft, Esche, Kiprusoff, Aebischer, Vokoun, Biron, and Dipietro). Of the 7 keepers, 6 will make the playoffs. If we base if off history, don’t expect the teams using these keepers as their starters to win the cup.
A Brief Finals Keeper History
(Year) Winner – Loser: (2003) Brodeur – Giguere (2002) Hasek – Irbe (2001) Roy – Brodeur (2000) Brodeur – Belfour (1999) Belfour – Hasek (1998) Osgood – Kolzig (1997) Vernon – Hextall/Snow (1996)Roy – Vanbiesbrouck (1995) Brodeur – Vernon (1994) Richter – McLean (1993) Roy – Hrudey (1992) Barrasso – Belfour (1991) Barrasso – Casey (1990) Ranford – Moog (1989) Vernon – Roy (1988) Fuhr – Moog/Lemelin (1987) Fuhr – Hextall (1986) Roy – Vernon (1985) Fuhr – Lindbergh (1984) Fuhr – Smith (1983) Smith – Fuhr/Moog (1982) Smith – Brodeur, Richard (1981) Smith – Meloche/Beaupre (1980) Smith – Peeters/Myre
The “proven” goalie idea comes from the fact that only 11 goalies (Barrasso, Belfour, Brodeur, Fuhr, Smith, Ranford, Osgood, Hasek, Richter, Roy, and Vernon) have won the Stanley Cup going back to 1980. That’s only 11 goalies in 24 years. Smith, Fuhr, Brodeur, Roy, Vernon, and Barrasso are the goalies in that time frame to win it more than once and they account for 19 out of 24 cups, a testament to the ability of these keepers and the teams they played on. The only goalie of that caliber that is still playing is Brodeur (with Belfour having a chance to join them this year). Below is a breakdown of the number of different goalies to win in the last 2.4 decades of the NHL.
These winning goalies fall into three categories: “virgins”, “been round a coupla times”, and “frustrated for years”.
- “Virgins” (less than 10 playoff games experience)
- Roy (0 Games)
- “Been Round” (approximately 20 playoff games experience)
- Fuhr (22 Games for 13-7)
- Osgood (20 full playoff games 11-9),
- Richter (20 playoff games 9-9)
- Brodeur (3rd year pro, 18 games for 8 – 10)
- “Frustrated” (30+ playoff games experience)
- Vernon (4th year pro, 35 games for 18-16) Note: Vernon lost to Roy in ’86 as a rookie going 12-9 in the playoffs that year.
- Smith (5th year pro, 30 games for 16 – 11)
- Hasek (12th year pro, 74 games for 37 – 32)
- Belfour (11th year pro, 85 games for 45 – 35)
- Barrasso (10th year pro, 43 games for 22 – 19)
The “Proven” Label
In order to understand if a keeper deserves the label “proven”, the term itself needs clarification. Depending upon which definition you subscribe to, the “proven” label includes different goaltenders. Lets play with the definition to see what shakes out…
If proven means “has won the cup before” (Brodeur, Belfour, Osgood) – Toronto, St. Louis, or New Jersey will win the cup this year. While Toronto and Jersey fans would love to have us believe this is what the analysts mean by proven, the fact of the matter is that no one can support this statement due to the inherent catch-22.
Let’s assume that “proven” means “30+ playoff games experience” (e.g. Smith, Barrasso, Hasek, Belfour, Vernon) – Toronto, St. Louis, New Jersey, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia with Burke, or Ottawa win the cup this year. Aside from St. Louis, all these teams have a very good shot at winning this year. The fact remains that clearly goalies with less experience have won the cup in the last 25 years.
Making the criteria for “proven” goalies “about 20 playoff games experience” (see 30 list and add Osgood, Fuhr, Richter, and Brodeur) – add to the list for 30 these teams: Colorado with Salo, San Jose, Vancouver (either keeper), Los Angeles, and Montreal.
So is the “proven” goalie debate really a debate? No. No goalie has won the cup in the last 24 years with less than 18 playoff games experience except Roy. The exception losers (i.e. the losers that went played for the cup but lost with less that 18 games experience)?
With the most generous definition of the term “proven” and ruling out a “Roy” anomaly, we end up with a list of 11 teams that actually have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The Skinny on Previous Cup Winners
Belfour – The only previous cup winner that has a shot to win the it this year. The Leafs of course have to actually make it through rounds 1, 2, and 3. With the strength of the East this year, the Leafs’ best shot to get Belfour to the cup finals is by taking first and getting the Isles or the Sabres in the first round. Coming in anywhere else could be disastrous. Meeting the Devils could easily give the Leafs a first round exit.
Brodeur – The Devils have never defended the title (i.e. won 2 years in a row) and they are not showing signs of doing it this year either. Perhaps Stevens is their savior, Stevens is the Devils’ emotional leader after all. Don’t think that there is no way Brodeur plays for the cup though… they reached game 7 and lost against Colorado in 2001. Stevens will reportedly be back for the playoffs in addition to Rafalski. Both players immediately make New Jersey a better team.
Osgood – He may not even make the playoffs. At this point in his career, we can label him as average. Average goalies win the cup on remarkable teams. St. Louis is a good team with an average keeper. Expect a maximum of a first round exit out of Osgood and the Blues.
Predictions based on the stats…
At the time of this writing the standings were…
1. Tampa Bay 99
2. Philadelphia 98
3. Boston 97
4. Toronto 94
5. Ottawa 93
6. New Jersey 92
7. Montreal 90
8. NY Islanders 84
1. Detroit 99
2. Colorado 94
3. San Jose 94
4. Dallas 93
5. Vancouver 91
6. Calgary 88
7. Edmonton 83
8. Nashville 82
The “Giggy” (rookie) keeper of ’04
- Kiprusoff – The safe bet to get “Giggy” with it.
- Raycroft – Only right behind Kiprs as the one to watch.
- Aebischer – Has had a good year, but nothing eye popping yet.
- Esche – Is he even going to be the starter for Philly?
- Vokoun – After the preds make the playoffs, they will be having fun. That always makes a team dangerous.
- Dipietro – Last place in the East… playing on an inconsistent team.
If we assume that Philadelphia will start Esche and Colorado will start Aebischer, we are down to 9 possible teams that have a realistis shot at winning the cup. There is an X factor team in each conference that might be able to produce a Roy anomaly…
In the East…
Based upon the stats, 5 teams have a legit chance to win the cup here.
In the West
Oh the pain of not being able to back up Colorado with the stats… sorry boys. :@
I hate to say it, but I’m looking for a Detroit – Toronto final. Won’t that be fun? Belfour vs. Cujo?