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Goaltenders, and The Crazy People Who Write About Them

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Bourne’s Blog Fantasy Hockey League is a breeding ground for gambling glory.  And now that I’m not under the scrutiny of the NCAA, I like to participate in occasional frequent as many bets as humanly possible (as an aside, NCAA, I frequently played and lost poker with your scholarship money.)

Last week, I beat the tarnation out of fellow hockey writer “Ms. Conduct” (An epic 5-4 lashing).

Ms. Conduct, fittingly, is crazy – fittingly, that is, because she’s a goaltender, and writes about them.  Since this is not my area of expertise, I am collecting my winnings in the form of a day off from blogging, while she discusses the goalie position with you.  If you like her stuff, you can check out more on her site here - main focus on the Minnesota Wild, goalies, and the Houston Aero’s.  Oh, and Barry Brust.  She also writes for InGoal Magazine.

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I suppose there are worse fantasy hockey bets to lose than having to write a blog post. I mean, it’s what I do anyway. My orders are to write about goaltending, which is good because I don’t know anything else, but I don’t have one big, consecutive thought on anything in particular, so I’m just gonna dive in and wander around.

First off, did you catch Tim Thomas let that goal in during the Winter Classic because he was busy giving Scott Hartnell the business for tripping him a few seconds earlier?

One of the first things I learned about myself when I started playing goal last year was that I’m one mean effin’ goalie. You should see the looks of shock I get from these guys I play. I guess because there’s a pony tail hanging out the back of my mask, I’m supposed to be demure.  Oops, guess I missed that memo, boys!

So, I get it, Timmy. That curly-headed punk slew footed you and needed to pay for it. But seriously, how do you lose focus that badly with the puck moving furiously in your zone? I’ve certainly done it but I haven’t been playing (and learning those important lessons about maintaining composure) for 20+ years like Timmy has.

On one hand, if I were a Bruins fan and they‘d lost because of that, I’d have thrown my CHOWDAH at him.

On the other hand, it kinda makes me feel better about myself as a newbie goalie. Even the Vezina winners have their amateur moments. It’s kinda always how I feel when I watch Vesa Toskala.

Vesa Cookie

Oh, Tosky. I know, he’s an easy whipping boy, but his game is starting to become a serious fascination for me. So much that when fellow Wild blogger, Elise, from 18,568 Reasons Why was making maple leaf cookies, she even made a Vesa Cookie and sent me a picture. How righteous is that?

He really doesn’t seem like that bad of a goalie technically. I‘ve seen worse guys in the NHL in that respect, but he never ever EVER gets a friendly bounce. EVER.

It’s like, all goalies have their bad nights where things just don’t go their way. But EVERY night is a bad night for Toskala. And I find myself watching Leafs games where he’s in net just to see what manner of monkey-poo-fling the hockey gods have in store for him, and subsequently, Leafs fans.

It makes me feel better, because often he’s scored on in ways that I’m scored on. You know, a little floater that bounces on top of your pad and some hack whacks it in like a freakin‘ tee shot. Or you leave a tiny gap to the post that the shooter lucks the puck into. Or some a-hole dumps it in on net from the opposing blue line and it takes a funny hop into the net. Augh!

Anyway… Toskala is fun to watch for all the wrong reasons. Not sure what he did to become karma’s court jester, but it’s stuck to him like glue.

But that does bring me to something else I’ve been mulling lately. I went to the Kings vs. Isles game in Kansas City during pre-season. I was super excited to see Nathan Lawson, because Justin had sold me on his big time puck-playing skills with a bonus potential for the brand of crazygoalie I so enjoy.

And while I did enjoy him, it was Jonathan Quick in the other net who captivated me and still does. And I can’t figure out why.

Normally it’s Gambler Goalies that I love to watch. The ones who don’t hesitate to skate out well past the hash marks to play the puck or poke check. The ones who, when a scrum develops around the net, are drawn into it rather than taking the puck for a quiet skate in the corner. The ones who hold that glove save out a couple of beats longer than necessary just to remind you who‘s your daddy.

But I think the bottom line is that some goalies, like Quick, just have “it” regardless of their style of play, and people can see “it” but can’t necessarily put a finger on “it.”

Another goalie who has “it” is Matt Climie, who plays for the AHL Texas Stars. His style isn’t particularly unusual, but he’s just got this… way… about him. I’ve interviewed him and he’s not a particularly imposing guy off the ice, but on the ice, he looks 6’7”. And he’s just zen personified in net. Completely opposite of my favorite style of goalie, but I can’t tear my eyes off of him. That is “it.”

Finally, a question for Bourne‘s Bloggers: In a recent article, Marc-Andre “I smile a lot because my lips don’t fit over my giant chiclets” Fleury said, “I’m not a hockey player, I’m a goalie.”

The context was in initially trying to get a date with his current girlfriend (of 8 years… put a ring on it, Flower, for shit’s sake), who said she wouldn’t date a hockey player.

But it got me thinking. Some goalies really do seem like hockey players and some goalies seem like goalies. No offense to goalie goalies of course, as I‘m 100% in that group. On my game nights, I don’t even think of it as “going to play hockey.” I think of it as “going to play goal.”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I do kind of think of certain goalies as more hockey players and others as pure goalies. One of our goalies in Houston, Barry Brust, is one such goalie. He’s one of my all time favorite tenders, but I also think he could strap on the player gear and play out with pretty reasonable success.

But what do you think? Is there a difference in attitude or toughness that would put goalies in separate buckets like that? Do skaters think of goalies as hockey players? Or are they like kickers in football (except way more important, better looking, and can actually get in the Hall of Fame)? Let me have it.

Comments

16 Responses to “Goaltenders, and The Crazy People Who Write About Them”
  1. jtbourne says:

    My take, Ms. C, would be that all goalies tend to think they can play out. And most enjoy trying. Also, they’re obsessed with taking slapshots the second you put a stick in their hands.

    Knowing Barry personally, and having played with him while he played out, I can tell you this: your hunch is bang on. He’s really good without the pads on – actually, Barry’s pretty good at most sports. Athletic for a big dude.

  2. Mike says:

    My experience is completely beer league, but I respect goalies. As a player I don’t know why the goalies don’t do more poke checks. Guys have their head down anyway. Plus they are not expecting it. Guess it doesn’t work as well in higher skill levels. My one goalie gripe is playing the puck. Please..please…don’t handle the puck. Bad things usually happen when you do.

  3. Will77 says:

    I think its more of a mindset then a skillset as far as a goalies abilities to play outside the crease. I know DiPietro played out when he used to play roller hockey and was supposedly excellent. Yes I know, he’d be broken into 13905984 pieces of glass if he ever played out in the NHL.

    Guys like Garth Snow and Ron Hextall I would put in the “hockey player” category, since they had that mean streak in them. Not the Tim Thomas check you from behind like shown above, but the “I’ll gladly skate towards you face to face and drop them with you”.

    I’m pretty sure, and JT might be able to say yay or nay, that Billy Smith was made a goalie just to keep him inside that blue semi circle and away from others as much as possible.

  4. jtbourne says:

    Actually, I’ve gotten to know Billy more in the last two years than ever before (he’s on of the dozen ex-players at our fantasy camp), and I’ve been blown away by his theories on goaltending.

    He teaches our guests (including the 73 year old we had give it a go one year) that, when a player is coming down the wing, and you’re coming out to cut of the angle, just fucking charge right at the guy before he gets his head up. Not to like, cut the angle down, but to eliminate the human before he can shoot the puck, usually in the form of a sliding two-pad jammer.

    I’m not sure who’s safety I was more concerned for when I’d see him hustling at me, his or mine.

  5. James says:

    When I skated up on my beer league team a couple of years ago (I was flying back from a conference in NYC and they didn’t want to count on my flight being on time…), I played well enough that a lot of guys were like “You were a lot better than I expected”.

    But then I played in a charity game a few weeks ago, hit the post after deking the goalie on a breakaway, and when one of my beer league teammates who was reffing the game started chirping, my response was “That’s why I’m a goalie!”.

    And I have no slapshot skating up. I’m a plumber and all my goals when I used to skate up all the time came from like 5 feet from the top of the crease and in.

    I wish I had the time & money to play in two leagues: one in goal and one skating up.

  6. ms.conduct says:

    OMG at the idea of 73 year old “giving it a try” goalies giving it the old Hasek Flip.

    Mike, my one resolution for the year is to rock the poke check. Apart from a sexy glove save (and I’m hopeless at glove saves, sexy or otherwise) it’s my favorite move and really seems to tick guys off, which also one of my favorite things.

  7. Will77 says:

    Billy Smith = Hockey player.

    That reminds me of one of the most brutal injuries I’ve seen in person in my life. Defenseman on our team has the puck near our blue line with the other teams defenseman pinching in. Our guy ramps it up off the glass, and the puck bounces its way towards the other blue line. Our winger busts after the puck, and its right in the middle of their goalie and our winger… clear break away. The goalie comes out and does that two pad stack thing. Well, our winger (in concern for himself and the goalie) puts on the breaks just as the goalie is coming into him. From some fluke accident of leverage and the like, our guy ends up with BOTH bones in his right leg snapping right in half. He pretty much immediately went into shock, but before that let loose one of the most disturbing screams I’ve ever heard.

  8. mwl says:

    as a former goalie and current youth hockey coach i can attest to the fact that i love slap-drives, though mine is much more like a .22 than a howitzer…

    If you’re looking for an exciting goalie to watch, check out Al Stalock for the W. Sharks. He moves well and can stop the puck, but LOVES playing the puck.

    JB who were the best goalies you played against in the WCHA?

  9. Pat says:

    Former goalie here, and I always appreciate a fellow goaltender’s perspective……

    I think the question of whether a goalie can skate out or not should rather be whether the goalie is an athlete or not. I’ve seen and coached plenty of guys that are only focused on stopping the puck without grasping the rest of the game. I think the goalies that can transition smoothly are not only more athletic, but “get” hockey, too. Personally, it was pretty easy for me to become a beer league defensemen after playing goal through juniors. The positive being I can take more penalties than I could playing goal.

    And JB…..I understand the gambling thing. There’s not much else to do in Anchorage during the season. Having been there a bunch of times to work Aces games…..I was always bored out of my mind. Wake up at the hotel, workout, go to the mall downtown and try to waste a few hours, eat, nap, ref game, go to the bar. Oh….and freeze your ass off the whole time. Some fun……

    Go Kindrachukers!

  10. Char says:

    Do each of the sprinkles on that Toskalol cookie represent a goal? ;-)

    Regarding the Thomas/Hartnell clusterf***, I was just rewatching a bit of the WC on DVR and they pointed out that Syvret (I undoubtedly spelled that wrong) was looking into the corner as though he was going to dump the puck there, probably fooling Thomas into thinking he had time to whack Hartnell, before he took the shot. Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game that Thomas sometimes makes dumb mistakes like that (obviously paraphrased) but you take the bad with the good, because his ferocity is part of what makes him such a competitor and a good goalie.

    I have no idea where Tuukka Rask falls on the goalie/player scale. He’s a very skilled athlete but he’s also batshit crazy.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUVGz0MVyKI

  11. ms.conduct says:

    Is Rask nuts or did he just have a little moment there. Okay, big moment. But still…

    Not that it matters. That was an epic tantrum and I’ll love him forever for it.

    Stalock’s getting his name out there more and more lately. He and Salak in Rochester have gotten quite a lot of attention this season in the AHL, but I haven’t seen Stalock play as much.

    I do kinda wonder about these guys who are stuck in systems behind goalies who play 65 games a year every year. Even their NHL backup gets neglected, but their AHL guys really don’t have any hope. Wouldn’t you love to be an Oilers goalie right now?

  12. Neil says:

    It’s hard to say without being able to look behind the scenes at how goalies fit into the team routine, but my feeling is that the job of a goalie is so different from any of the other guys that it would be very possible for someone to be a goalie without being a “hockey player”. That being said, if you’re eating with the guys, training with the guys, skating with them, etc., it might be necessary to get more specific about what being a “hockey player” means.

    In my very, very limited experience, the mentality of a goalie is totally different than the average hockey player (not exactly news to anyone). The goalies on my rec teams are often nucking futs, but we deal with it because they are good at their job and no one else has pads :) For pros, the amount of mental focus it must take to stay in your crouch while obsessively thinking about angles is something that guys like Bieksa and Komiserik would have to spend a decade at a Buddhist temple to attain. Guys like Tim Thomas, Hasek, Emery, etc. kind of blur the line, but I gotta go with Fleury there, it seems like the desired mindset of a goalie is much, much different than that of players.

    Nice work Ms. Conduct!

  13. ms.conduct says:

    Thanks Neil! My experience is that goalies who pick it up as adults aren’t as nutty as those who have been playing for years and years. And if they’re any good, they’ve been playing for years and years.

    Last night, one of the other girls (I play with mostly men, so I dunno why it’s only the women who have the stones to get in net) strapped the pads on for the first time ever during our scrimmage.

    She shrieked her way through the remaining 40 minutes of play. Guys would wind up like they were gonna take a slapper EEEEEEEE!!!! Soooo I’m thinking she’s not a natural born goalie. I’m not a GOOD natural born goalie, but I’m convinced I was meant to be a goalie. Mentally, it’s perfect for me and I figure if 90% of the position is mental and I can get the mental game down, I’ll stop 9 out of 10 shots, right? :D

    But she talked afterward about how serious and lonely the position felt to her. I never think of it that way, but I can see where a “hockey player” would.

  14. Char says:

    Oh I loved that! Gotta think that a goalie screaming EEEEE!!! would seriously rattle the opposition, no? ;-)

    As for Rask, most of the time he appears to be a fairly normal human being, from what I’ve heard/seen (with a typically dry Finnish sense of humor) – he even gets a tad embarrassed when anyone brings up The Tantrum – but he’s obviously competitive as hell.

  15. Deirdre says:

    Someone who thinks of the goalie position as lonely isn’t spending their time “alone” helping their skaters know what’s happening behind them, or what the ref is signaling, or how many seconds are left in that penalty, or or or. There’s too much to *do* to get lonely!

    I kinda like the idea of the squeeeeee…that’s gotta rattle some cages! A friend of mine who’s normally very polite became the foul mouthed goalie when she strapped on the pads. I become verbose, and don’t seem to understand that my players can’t understand most of what I’m saying. Stress and adrenaline hit everyone in different ways I guess :-)

  16. Simone says:

    Goalies rule — shooters drool.

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