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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Full Lockout Hurts Goalies

Say what you want about defence winning championships but if you don't have solid goaltending to accompany that defence you wont get anywhere near the championship. Both the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings had outstanding offence and defence and proved they were the best of the best when they accomplished the dream of winning the Stanley Cup. But if wasn't for the outstanding play of Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick who both won the Conn Smythe, both the Bruins and Kings would not have their latest Cups. Goaltending is crucial to winning.

While a full season lockout effects everyone, it especially impacts the netminders. While forwards and defence are still able to work on their skating and shots in practices, on their own and at player organized training camps, goalies for the most part can't keep up the reflexes they utilize every night to stop some of the best shooters. With many top players over in Europe and practices unable to match game intensity many goaltenders don't get the practice they need to keep their skills sharp during a lockout.

Coming out of the 2004-2005 lockout goalies were left out in the cold. By the time games started up for 2005-2006 the 'tenders were left dazed and a step behind the sharp shooters of the NHL, and while it did provide some entertaining high scoring hockey the goalies production went downhill. In 2003-2004 goaltenders were arguably at their peak and the average save percentage for NHL goalies was .911, but after the lockout the save percentages dropped drastically to a dismal .901 the lowest since 1985. Before the lockout goaltending was at it's high, the highest it's ever been, the goalies were good, smart, quick and stoning shooters left, right and centre, whereas after the lockout one could have mistaken NHL goalies for minor league or rookie netminders.

To further prove that a lockout hurts the goaltenders more than anyone else, let's see how the players faired after the 2004-2005 lockout. Before the last lockout the players were having a difficult time scoring goals and as a result more times than not the game would end by a 1 goal difference as there was an average of 5.1 goals a game, the lowest since 1955. After the lockout during the same time the goalies were struggling the goals per game jumped to 6.

After save percentages took a downhill turn in 2005, it took until 2009 for goalies to regain their form and skill from before the lockout, thats 4 seasons do you know how many goalies may have lost their jobs due to their poor play after the lockout?

Let's look at 2 veteran goalies who play went downhill after the lockout;

Martin Biron-- 2003-2004: 2.52 GAA and .913 Save Percentage Vs. 2005-2006: 2.88 GAA and .905 Save Percentage

Biron's numbers became notably worse in 2005-2006 after taking the whole season off because of the

lockout. Due to his poor play he ultimately lost the starting job to Buffalo Sabres franchise goalie Ryan Miller who benefited from a full season in the AHL during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. In 2006-2007 Biron was limited to just 19 games between the pipes for the Sabres and even in those 19 games he had very poor stats racking up a 3.04 GAA and .899 Save Percentage. Biron is now the New York Rangers backup goal seeing the net when Henrik Lundqvist needs some rest.

Ed Belfour-- 2003-2004: 2.13 GAA and .918 Save Percentage Vs. 2005-2006: 3.29 GAA and .892 Save Percentage

Now there's a name from the history books, but believe it or not the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs had a decent team he was between the pipes. Belfour led the Leafs to 2nd place in their conference and into the playoffs with his stellar play pre-lockout. That was his last of 3 seasons with the blue and white before he headed south to join up with the Florida Panthers where his game improved but it was to little too late for the aging tender.

There you have it two goalies who careers were decimated by the last lockout. Who's careers may be forever changed because of this lockout? Every goalie is keeping their fingers crossed that this one doesn't last as long so they can get back into game action and get back to proving they're the most valuable netminders to their teams.


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