- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

In an age when teams come from nowhere to win Super Bowls and World Series, it has been comforting to know that experienced goaltending can still be relied upon to produce Stanley Cup champions.
Oops. Make that "was comforting."
Six of the eight teams that survived the first round of the NHL playoffs had the less experienced goalie. The biggest shocker came with Minnesota's Manny Fernandez with 19 previous postseason minutes on his resume outdueling Colorado's Patrick Roy, a four-time champion and the all-time leader with 151 playoff victories.
Roy's stunning exit from postseason came after he and the Avalanche had built a 3-1 lead over the Wild with Games5 and 7 at home. It followed those of such playoff-tested goalies as Toronto's Ed Belfour (one Cup, 82 victories), St. Louis' Chris Osgood (one Cup, 44 victories), Detroit's Curtis Joseph (60 victories) and Washington's Olie Kolzig (one finals, 20 victories).
After old standby Martin Brodeur of New Jersey (two Cups, 73 victories), the most experienced goalie still in the quest for the Cup is Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin, who won his first playoff series in five tries and has a 14-17 postseason record. Ottawa's Patrick Lalime is 12-10 with two series triumphs. Philadelphia's Roman Cechmanek (7-11) and Vancouver's Dan Cloutier (7-8) also just won series for the first time. Dallas' Marty Turco and Anaheim's Jean-Sebastian Giguere who limited the defending champion Red Wings to six goals in a stunning four-game sweep joined Fernandez in getting their first playoff decisions this month.
The guys are not exactly the likes of Dominik Hasek, Roy, Brodeur and Belfour the last four goalies to win the Cup and all Hall of Fame locks. Even the less respected Osgood has 274 victories and is only 30.
The only true out-of-nowhere goalie to win a title in the last 50 years was Edmonton's Bill Ranford in 1990. But unless Brodeur skates with Lord Stanley's hardware for the third time in June or Giguere, 25, Cloutier, Fernandez, or Turco, all 27, or Lalime, 28 Khabibulin and Cechmanek are already in their 30s becomes a true star, we're in one of those springs where the exception proves the rule.
"The playoffs are always about goaltending first," said Anaheim general manager Bryan Murray, a veteran of 14 previous postseasons with the Caps, Red Wings and Florida.
They also have always been about experience, which is why GMs covet players with multiple championship rings at this time of year. The Red Wings have 37 rings on their roster, the Mighty Ducks one. But Anaheim moved on and Detroit packed its bags.
"They kept talking about experience being the factor, but sometimes experience just means that you have older guys," Murray said. "If you're a confident group and disciplined, it doesn't matter if you're old or young, you can play well."
Experience also has been less important behind the bench this spring. Rookie coaches Dave Tippett of the Stars and Mike Babcock of the Ducks won their initial series, as did the Lightning's John Tortorella (the latter two over fellow playoff newcomers).
Ken Hitchcock of the Flyers and Pat Burns of the Devils are postseason veterans but are in their first years with their teams. Jacques Lemaire won a Cup with the Devils but had never been to postseason with the Wild. Marc Crawford took a title with the Avalanche but was 2-8 in the playoffs with the Canucks. Jacques Martin had a 2-6 series record with the Senators before this year.
And while many observers thought the East was fairly wide-open while the West's top three seeds were sure things, the East's top seeds Ottawa, New Jersey, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia all won while two of the West's top three Detroit and Colorado lost.
So while it appears that only the Senators can prevent a second Devils-Stars finals in four years, this obviously isn't a postseason to go by the book.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More

Click to Hide