Fire Starters and Flame Outs

Justin Goldman

2008-10-13

 Ilya Bryzgalov

 

How important is the first five games for starting goaltender these days? Maybe not so important when it comes to their technical game, but thanks to the tight races in all six divisions in the NHL, it’s almost vital to their overall success and their mental game. Think about the momentum gained by winning their first five games. Think about how it can set the tone for a career-setting season. Mentally, coming out of the gates on a tear will raise their confidence level and their abilities to make the big-time saves at big-time moments. So yes, with a great start to the season comes truly great reward for fantasy owners. 

 

Not only does a good start create a positive mindset for the goalie, it also makes their team much more dynamic on the other end of the ice. We all know that big saves consistently turn into big goals, and there have been more than a handful of examples of that over the weekend. So let’s take a look at the league’s hottest fire starters and flameouts for the season so far…those that have started with a bang and those that have struggled just to wake up.

My ultimate fire starter is Ilya Bryzgalov. His first two games were nearly flawless. He made 33 saves against the Ducks on Sunday and only allowed one goal against Columbus on 29 shots the previous night. It doesn’t take a genius to see what’s behind his incredible start – his positioning and technical play is bar-none. Within his positioning, there’s something very noticeable about his stance and leg pads that I have never seen before in an NHL goalie.

This is hard to explain without a visual representation (unless Dobber found an image at the top), but I notice that his stance and his butterfly is squared off more than any other I’ve ever seen. His right leg is angled off to the side more than his left so that his right pad buckles up underneath his left pad. So the left pad rests perfectly on top of the right. His left leg is more upright – giving him more power to push laterally along with a perfectly squared off butterfly when he drops. It also looks like his right pad might be an inch shorter than his left as well. Again I have no proof of this – it’s something that I notice is different from last season.

Another obvious pair of fire starters is Henrik Lundqvist and to a lesser degree, Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury was on the wrong side of a couple of bounces against New Jersey when he made a career-high 47 saves and still lost a heartbreaker, 2-1 in OT. I’m surprised Fleury didn’t attack Hal Gill and wring him by the neck, because that was an absolutely heroic game for Fleury and something that he will remember for the rest of his life – but now it will be a negative memory because of the loss. Imagine the confidence he would have gained had Zach Parise not thrown that puck off Gill’s foot and Fleury ended up with a shutout. Sad day.

On the other side of the swinging pendulum, there are a number of goalies that have totally struggled to start the season. One flameout comes from down south in Dallas with Marty Turco’s five goals allowed on 27 Blue Jackets shots, followed up by a lowly 2-1 loss to Nashville just a day later. Mentally, he is not focused whatsoever and his timing is simply off right now. Turco has developed a reputation for going into sleep mode at unforeseen moments in a season. How long do they last