For more than half a century the All-Star weekend has been a time for the league’s best players to kick back, relax and enjoy the festivities. But for goaltenders, the experience has always been much, much different. While the skaters get to flash their sick skills to the entire world, the goaltenders have the near-impossible task of matching the level of talent displayed by the All-Star players – and they have to try and look good while doing it.
So for the goalies, the All-Star weekend can be seen as more of an intense playoff series than a laid-back game of shinny. Goalies are pretty much treated like gutless pigs being slowly roasted on the spit of the conference skaters. They’re hung out to dry, exposed to the environment around them and forced to fend off the demons of possibly losing a ton of confidence. If the goalie happens to play well and make a collection of ludicrous saves, their confidence will shoot sky high. If they get shredded apart, they look like a goalie in a low-end beer league. Skaters can easily shrug off the game in an instant, but goalies will see some of the great plays and moves coming at them in their nightmares for days, weeks, even months.
This explains why Evgeni Nabokov was poke-checking and challenging shooters in the Breakaway Competition on Saturday night. No All-Star goalie is going to allow a player to pull insane moves on them without taking away some time and space from the shooter by coming out to challenge him, even if it is a competition directed at a shooter’s creativity. No goalie wants to get faked out of their jock strap and they certainly don’t want to be scored on easily. To allow a shooter to do that is to lie down like a dog and admit defeat. That lowers confidence and that can take away the fire inside.
Even though this All-Star Weekend was supposed to include some of the most skilled goalies from each conference, it ended up being the first time since 1986 that no Quebec-born goalie participated. Both starters – Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo – had to pull out for personal reasons. There was no Pascal Leclaire, Marty Turco, Henrik Lundqvist, Miikka Kiprusoff or Dominik Hasek, either. Nevertheless, the guys who were called to action over the weekend did considerably well, especially in the All-Star Game.
And while the most exciting “competition” of Saturday night was clearly the YoungStars game, it begged the question of what’s the point of a YoungStars game if you can’t even bring out two rookie goaltenders to play in the game. Hello, NHL, have you even been paying attention to the tremendous rookie goalie talent in the league this year?
It was an absolute joke that Carey Price, Karri Ramo, Jonathan Bernier and Jonas Hiller were not even invited to participate. It’s really not considered a YoungStars game when you stick three 35-year-old goaltenders in the crease, which is argued as the most exciting position in the game, and expect them to compete with the likes of Peter Mueller, Patrick Kane and Milan Lucic.