Stacking the Pads

Just the tip of the goalie news iceberg

25 June 2006

Sorting through the trades

It's been a busy week for the NHL ever since the Hurricanes took that big shiny prize home with them. First there was the awards show, and to fulfill my goalie-news-obligation I will inform you that Miikka Kiprusoff won the Vezina. I hope he had a good excuse for not being there to accept it, because if not, Teemu Selanne made him look pretty lame. The Flying Finn is in his homeland running a charity hockey school, but sent a taped speech in acceptance of the Masterson Trophy (for "perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey").

But the big news is all the trading going on around the draft, and after a few days of letting it all sink in I'm going to try to make some sense of it all, at least as far as the newly relocated goalies. Naturally, the biggest deal to hit the press so far is the Luongo-Krajicek-draft pick to Vancouver for Bertuzzi-Auld-Allan trade. (I will leave my thoughts on Todd Bertuzzi out of this discussion, as this is certainly not the right forum for that sort of rant.) Vancouver picked up their much needed "#1" goalie, though I'm not sure where that leaves Cloutier, as the Canucks said they are not planning on trading him. Luongo was reportedly surprised by the deal, having thought he and Panthers management had a verbal agreement to a 4-year deal, complete with three conditions: publicly state that they won't trade him, bring on Francois Allaire as his goalie coach, and sign Jamie McLennan as his backup. Panthers GM said Luongo was asking more money than they could spend, but it sounds like the "pain in the ass" tax was getting a little high as well. So Florida now has Alex Auld, presumably as their starter. The Panthers did not pick up Jamie McLennan's option, but instead sent a 2008 draft pick to Chicago for Craig Anderson, Blackhawks backup and goalie for the US team at the 2006 World Championships. I'm wondering about that, because based purely on stats, McLennan has the upper hand (3.01 GAA and .906 SV% in 17 games vs Anderson's 3.32 GAA and .886 SV% in 29 games).

The other big move found 2003-2004 Calder trophy winner Andrew Raycroft going to the Maple Leafs for Finnish phenom Tuukka Rask, currently playing in Finland's elite league, SM-Liiga. This kid won't even see his 20th birthday until October, and was named best goalie in this year's under-20 World Junior Championships, and was named to that tournament's all star team. According to The Hockey News' website, Rask is "one of the best goaltending prospects currently out there. [He] was one of the best goaltenders in the 2006 WJC, and is a sure-fire NHLer in a matter of 2 or 3 years". Sounds like he'll fit right in with Tim Thomas, the Bruins' late season surprise who actually played in the SM-Liiga for four (non-consecutive) seasons, and countryman Hannu Toivonen. Hopefully the change of scenery will help Raycroft will shake off whatever fog he was in this season.

And in most recent news, Buffalo extended a qualifying offer to Biron, who whether or not he accepts, has made it known that he would like to be traded. Also, Huet signed a two-year, $5.75 million (US) contract with Montreal, though there is no truth to the rumor that he celebrated by partying with- I mean, at - a Hilton.

11 June 2006

Weekend roundup

Since I was away for the weekend at a family event, I missed Game 3. I heard it was an exciting game, and the reports I read said both goalies shone. Sounds like Rexall Place took a page out of the Madison Square Garden fans' playbook and jubilantly screamed the name of the goalie they were booing the last time he played in front of them. Hey, even if bandwagoners are screaming your name, it's gotta feel pretty darn good if 17,000 of them are doing it. Since I don't feel I can really comment on a game I didn't see, I have some Euro-tidbits to offer you.

The Czech Extraliga is continuing to fine-tune their rulebook. After making a few rule changes last summer, including the controversial lifting of the no-touch icing rule, they continue to make adjustments for the coming 2006-2007 season. So far three changes have been announced:
  • the Extraliga will adopt the "3-point rule", which I am assuming (yeah, I know, never assume) is similar to how the Swedish Elite League awards points: 3 points for a regulation time win, 2 points for an overtime win, 1 point for a tie or an overtime loss and a big fat goose-egg for a regulation time loss.
  • post-season seeding has been changed. Instead of the first 8 teams automatically going to the playoffs, teams 7 through 10 will play a preliminary series (best-of-5). The top two teams from that series will join teams 1 through 6 for the quarterfinals.
  • and perhaps oddest of all, at least to NHL fans, no secondary assists will be awarded on goals. This should make stat-geeks' heads explode when trying to compare points across leagues.
The 2010 Winter Olympic games, to be held in Vancouver, will feature North American sized ice surfaces. This will allow for games to be played at existing facilities, and of course will allow for more seating, which translates into more ticket sales. Since many European players play in North America, it shouldn't be too much of an adjustment on the whole.

(and most vaguely) Some NHL teams will play exhibition games against some Russian Superleague teams. Details such as who, when and where have not been decided upon (or maybe just not released). The NHL has not issued an official statement as yet. Stay tuned, this sounds like it could be fun.

07 June 2006

The last Musketeer

So... Cechmanek went to Linköpings, Langkow landed at HV71, leaving one last piece of the puzzle of the Swedish Goalie Exodus: Holmqvist's replacement. Today Brynäs filled that gap with fellow World Championship goalie Robert Kristan from Slovenia. Since Slovenia isn't the hockey Mecca that Sweden and Finland are, there isn't a whole lot of information available (in English anyway) out there. (where I get most of my information, bless that site!) has the history of the clubs he's played for, but not so much as far as stats. He did play all 6 games for Slovenia in the WC, but unfortunately had a far from stellar record: 0-4-2, 3.81 GAA, .887 save percentage. I hate relying solely on numbers, because they only tell part of the story. I don't know enough about Slovenian hockey to know if the team he had in front of him had as much to do with that record as he did. I'm venturing to guess it was a group effort failure- just look at Norrena in Finland, who played the same amount of WC games and came out with a 1.11 GAA and .950 save percentage. Norrena's good, there's no doubt about that, but the Finnish team was great too. They took the bronze... Slovenia didn't make it to the semifinals, much less the medal round.

Anyway... also reports that Montreal Canadiens winger Niklas Sundström is headed back to his homeland, to play for MoDo, where he played from 1991-1995 before coming to the NHL. The Canadiens website doesn't seem to mention it- maybe it's too new. Or maybe I got distracted by the message board banter about Huet and his contract (or lack of one). He'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so who knows where he will end up.

And last but not least, I was happy to see Markkanen in net tonight for the Oilers, but it killed me to see the outcome. Mind you, I am rooting for the Hurricanes, but I'm a sucker for a goalie story, and Markkanen's a former Ranger, and I wanted to see him do well. And frankly, I think he did play very well, despite the score. He had no chance on a lot of those goals, and didn't get a whole heck of a lot of help from his team mates, in either offense or defense. They took so many penalties I thought I was watching a Ranger game!

A word about Roloson

If you read the first post in this blog, you know that I have no love for “Roli”. I can concede that he is a good goaltender, and in the playoffs he’s been a great goaltender. I find his delay of game tactics and whining quite off-putting, however, which is why he’s one of my favorite goalies to bitch about. (Him and Marrrrrrrrrrrrr-ttttyyyyyy… heh heh heh). However, I am not one to be happy about another’s misfortune and I am truly sorry for him having to miss the rest of the series. I’ll admit, when he was crouched on the ice I thought he was dramatizing just a bit, since that’s what we’re accustomed to seeing. I was stunned when they lead him off the ice, and even more shocked to hear (read, technically) MacTavish’s glum words “Our goalie’s not good. He won’t be back in the series”. Ouch. There is a silver lining to this cloud, for me at least. Ty Conklin or Jussi Markkanen could step up and really bring it when it counts, you never know. And wouldn’t that be fun to see! Maybe Markkanen will take after Kiprusoff and jump in and steal the show. Not likely, given his regular season performance, but this is the playoffs, and all bets are off. All bets, that is, except for the one I have with a co-worker. (I’ve got Edmonton, in case anyone was curious. My co-worker has been dancing a gig of glee, counting his money ahead of time in anticipation of a sweep. I don’t think it’ll be quite that easy for the ‘Canes.)

Scratch that

HV71 has signed a goalie to replace Liv. Though I'm not all that convinced he's much of a replacement. Scott Langkow, who played a few games in the NHL but mostly plied his trade in the IHL and AHL, has been in Finland since the 2002-2003 season. The most recent statistics I can find on him are from his 2003-2004 season with Ässät Pori, where he had a 13-19-10 record with a 2.98 GAA. My grasp of Finnish is even more non-existant than my grasp of Swedish (at least Swedish is somewhat similar to German, which I used to speak quite well), so my forray to his current team's website (Lukko Rauma) revealed absolutely nothing in terms of information about Mr. Langkow. Strangely, I didn't even see his name on the roster. Perhaps they've updated their site since 31. May, when the trade took place. But something tells me I'm missing something.

Maybe he woke up in the past two seasons and kicked it into high gear. Maybe HV has a hot young prospect ready to wow us all, and Langkow will play second fiddle. All I can do is put my patient hat on and wait and see.

05 June 2006


I don't speak Swedish... so I have no idea what HV71's plans are as far as a new #1 goaltender. However, I think with the signing of defenseman Lance Ward from the AHL's Binghamton Senators (80 games played, 3 goals, 20 assists.... 278 penalty minutes), part of those plans might be "beat the snot out of anyone who even looks at the blueline".

04 June 2006

More Euro-stuff

In January of 2007, the IIHF European Champions Cup will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia. This championship is a contest between the top teams of each of the "major six" European hockey countries (Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Slovakia and the Czech Republic). The winning team of the top pro league in each country will compete for the title of European Champion. The six teams were divided into two divisions as follows:

Alexander Ragulin Division (A)
A1- HPK Hämeenlinna (FIN)
A2- Sparta Prague (CZE)
A3- MsHK Zilina (SVK)

Ivan Hlinka Division (B)
B1- AK Bars Kazan (RUS)
B2- HC Lugano (SUI)
B3- Färjestads BK (SWE)

The tournament will run from the 11th through the 14th of January.

The trans-atlantic goalie shuffle

Look out, the Swedes are coming. And the Finns. And the Finns who play in Sweden. And the Finns with Swedish-sounding names. It has amused me all season that the Red Wings have enough Swedes to put an all-Swedish skating unit out on the ice. I thought to myself, how funny would it be if they ended up with a Swedish goaltender too? Well, whaddya know, they've got one now. Stfan Liv, who played for HV71 in the Swedish Elite League (and for Tre Kronor in the Olympics and World Championships) is going to Detroit. He was their 4th round draft pick in 2000, and just signed a one year contract with them. He'll compete for a position in camp this fall, and if he doesn't make the team, will go to the AHL.

Tampa Bay has been busy as well. Coach Tortorella was vocal about his disappointment in his goaltending tandem of Sean Burke and John Grahame, and apparently they are on their way out. Just in the past week, Tampa has signed Johan Holmqvist (Brynäs - SEL), Fredrik Norrena (Linköpings - SEL) and Karri Rämö (of Hämeenlinna in the SM-liiga, Finland's top pro league). What they're going to do with all these Scandinavians beats me, but it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

The Minnesota Wild signed Finnish netminder Niklas Bäckström (not to be confused with the Swedish Niklas Bäckström, who is billed as the second coming of Peter Forsberg, available for the draft this year) to a mulityear contract whose details were not disclosed. Bäckström was also playing in the SM-liiga, and was on the 2006 Olympic roster and played in the 2005 World Championships.

Now... I'm not too familiar with Finland's pro leauge, but it sure did jump out at me that Sweden's league lost 3 top goalies. HV71, Brynäs and Linköpings all went to the playoffs this season, and now their #1 goalies are headed for greener pastures. Who will fill the void? Linköpings has already taken care of that- they've signed former Flyer and King Roman Cechmanek, who was playing in Germany this past season.

It will be interesting to see where all these guys end up, and who will step up for their previous clubs. Stay tuned, because I intend to keep my eye on this bunch!

03 June 2006

Testing the waters

My little profile over there on the side sums it up pretty well. I love to scour the 'net for interesting goalie-related news, but make no claims to provide all the news that's out there. This is mostly a place for me to comment on stories I find interesting as well as providing a little info for the goalie-minded. My focus will be mostly on goalies, because that is my passion (some would say obsession....), but I will definitely be talking about other things too. Bascially, whatever strikes my fancy. Living in the USA, my primary focus is the NHL, but I have become a fan of the Swedish Elite League as well, thanks to my curiosity about Henrik Lundqvist's old team, and a fellow hockey fanatic friend who lives in Sweden. My two favorite teams over there are the Frölunda Indians and HV71 (who desperately need a new name). Besides Sweden, any news from Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic catches my eye as well.

And I suppose any introductory post in a blog like this one would be incomplete without a list of my favorite goalies. As my friend is quick to point out, I like just about any goalie, just because they're goalies. But I do have my favorites, and I do have the ones I love to hate.

Favorite of all time:
Mike Richter (yeah, I'm a total homer)

Current Favorites:
Nikolai Khabibulin (despite his crappy season... I know he can do better!)
Henrik Lundqvist (what Ranger fan wasn't completely dazzled by him?)
Tomas Vokoun
Dominik Hasek

On my S-List:
Martin Brodeur
Dwayne Roloson
Robert Esche

International Goalies I have my eye on:
Milan Hlinicka (CZE)
Stefan Liv (SWE, will be in Detroit this fall)
Fredrik Norrena (FIN, recently signed by Tampa)

Those are just the ones on the top of the list. This year provided quite the crop of new and not-so-new goalies that are really fun to watch. This was definitely the year of the "unseating of the #1". I have to really hand it to Kevin Weekes for handling a difficult situation with such class. Who would have ever thought Bryzgalov would start playoff games ahead of Giggy, Toskala ahead of Nabokov, or Ward over Gerber? And where the heck did Cristobal Huet come from? Marc-Andre Fluery? Ryan Miller? Antero Niittymaki? What a great year it's been for goalie-gawking. It will be very interesting to see if all those new success stories can provide repeat performances next season.

But first, the Stanley Cup. Bring on the finals! Let's go 'Canes!