Rest is a Weapon

Justin Goldman

2009-11-23

Quick

 

Joe Sakic's wrist shot could have put a hole through my body, but his words of wisdom never failed to fill my mind. I was so fortunate to cover his final season as a pro, so I always paid extremely close attention to all of his post-game quotes. One of these quips took place early last season before the back problems sidelined him for good. It has since resonated in my mind, as it is quickly becoming an important factor in the world of fantasy goaltending.

 

"Rest is a weapon…" he said. Although he meant that in a sort of joking, nonchalant manner, it was quite accurate.

 

Every goalie wants to play all 82 games, regardless of how tired they feel. But physical wear and tear leads to a lack of mental strength, which leads to lapses in focus and things like bad rebound control, weak goals and the inability to snap into a rhythm. So whether goalies like it or not, only the most elite are exempt from this law of human nature.

 

One of these elite masterminds is Evgeni Nabokov. He has played more minutes than any other goalie, a total of 1,314:28 to be exact. But he also has a stellar 2.16 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 22 games. That's simply outstanding and so impressive that, in my opinion, he's the most valuable fantasy goalie in the league. But what makes him so durable and capable of overcoming the pangs of a heavy workload? It is his unique playing style.

 

With a very narrow butterfly stance that almost makes him look like a stand-up goalie, Nabokov plays in a manner that doesn't force him to exert a lot of energy when making a lot of saves. Compared to the style of goalies like Pascal Leclaire, Antti Niemi or Ondrej Pavelec, Nabokov is quite refined. He's a veteran who understands the value of using a number of different save styles so that he only exerts as much energy as is needed to stop the puck. He relies on excellent positioning to get his core behind the puck and he doesn't get too high or too low emotionally. He's cool, calm and collected, a master of situational awareness. He plays the game from beyond the crease and recognizes the ebbs and flows of momentum. He knows when to turn on the jets and when to save gas for later.

 

At the end of the day, Nabokov may play a lot of games, but you won't notice it because he doesn't waste energy like the younger, more hybrid butterfly goalies. On the flip side, you can't go 20 minutes without guys like Leclaire or Pavelec making a strenuous-looking reaction or desperation-like save. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but over time it wears you down. Martin Brodeur and Chris Osgood are two other veterans that know how to conserve energy and play the position using a multitude of different save styles. This allows them to stay fresh and energetic for when they need it most. If you can stand up to make a save and still