Someone, and I wish it were I, once quipped that the sport of hockey should be renamed “goalie,” since the goalie was all that mattered, especially in the playoffs.
Of course, that’s an oversimplification. A Harvard professor would call it “reductive.” But last night, both in fantasy hockey and reality, the switch from starting goalie to backup had salient ramifications (to continue with the professorial parlance).
Rangers backup Stephen Valiquette surrendered 10 goals — that’s not a misprint — in Dallas. Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist had the flu. Meanwhile, Columbus backup Wade Dubielewicz yielded three goals in a 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh (there was an empty netter). Starter Steve Mason is recovering from mono.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the backups. Devils backup Kevin Weekes made 31 saves en route to a 5-1 win in Atlanta. Predators backup Dan Ellis shut out the Wild 2-0 in Minnesota. It was Weekes’ first start since January 16, owing largely to the success of starter Scott Clemmensen. Likewise, it was Ellis’ first start since January 17, owing largely to the success of starter Pekka Rinne.
What are the lessons here? Let us bullet them:
- Any goalie has a chance to pitch a shutout against the Wild.
- Never trust Valiquette again. He has just displayed why he is not worth owning, even as insurance for Lundqvist.
- Do your homework about whether the starter will be absent for one game or more. Rinne and Clemmensen are likely to start their next games — neither of them is sick or injured. Lundqvist, by contrast, has the flu, so you’ll need monitor him. As for Mason, while there are some reports he could start today’s game, I doubt them. Columbus recalled goalie Dan LaCosta from Syracuse yesterday, and he dressed as the backup to Dubielewicz last night. Still, it’s hard for me to believe Columbus would have recalled LaCosta as strictly a one-game measure. I expect — though I have no confirmation — LaCosta or Dubielewicz will start tonight’s home game vs. San Jose. Regardless, since the game is against San Jose, you should not use any of the three Columbus goalies, whoever winds up starting.
A final note: I’m covering today’s Flyers-Bruins game. Tonight’s blog will focus on those two squads.
photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons