Is the Series Really up to the Goalies?
There’s been alot of talk around the quality of goaltending in this series. Here are my observations:
This Calgary post seems to say that the series thus far, and the future of it, has been and will be decided by Calgary goaltending. While I agree that goaltending looms huge in the playoffs, I wouldn’t say that either goalie has been overly lax in their duties thus far. Yes, both have let in less than stellar goals, but the Calgary writer points the finger at Kiprusoff for not holding a three goal lead.
I can’t do the same. Calgary’s work ethic is at fault, not the goaltending. I watched the game and saw a change in the Calgary toughness and execution right after they took the 4-1 lead. I was travelling and watching the game on the East Coast so I had hoped I could get to sleep early when Calgary took the aforementioned lead. But, after Calgary made it 4-1, I sensed a shift in work ethic and I thought, “I think the Hawks will make a game of this.” They did.
On the Chicago side we have this and this that talk about Khabby’s greatness and professionalism, etc. Again, I think it’s wrong to hang everything on the goalie here as well. However, ever since I saw the Bulin Wall get dismantled by the Chicago Wolves in the IHL playoffs (1998) when he was playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs, one thing is clear: As the team goes, so goes Khabibulin.
Yes, he’s got the ability to singlehandedly save a game but is he a goalie that will do that all the time even when the team around him is rattled and crumbling?
No. Just because Khabibulin is signed for an outrageous sum of money does not make him equal to, or better than, Martin Brodeur. Sorry.
However, Khabibulin is smart enough to know the score and what it will take to win. He didn’t say, “If I step up my game we’ll win this.” That may have been an accurate statement but he’d have to become supergoalie and that’s not a realistic recipe for wining the series. Instead he simply said: “We execute, we win.”
Execution. That’s what the series comes down to.
On the one hand you’ve got the Calgary Flames, a team that will win this series if it throws its weight around, plays with focus and passion, and keeps the young Hawk team on its heels.
On the other you’ve got a passionate, inexperienced, young team (“Young Sticks”-like “Young Guns” as my cousin calls them) that more often than not though, looks like they’re in over their heads when Calgary takes the game to them.
I think you can see where this is leading. The common denominator in both scenarios is Calgary, not the goalies. Thus far both netminders have played well enough for wins; not phenomenal but good enough. What will determine this series is Calgary’s ability to play 60 minutes of solid, body crunching hockey.
If there are times Calgary doesn’t, it’s up to Marty Havlat and the rest of the Hawks to blow through the breach and make Calgary pay.
As Khabibulin said, “We execute, we win.”