InGoal Update: Did Miracle on Ice inspire Thomas win?
Plus: Bryzgalov looks for warmer climes, Rinne looks forward to the next game and Miller looks for payback time, all in the April 22nd update.
What motivated a five-year-old Tim Thomas to be a goalie was nothing less than the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, when the US men’s “Miracle on Ice” team overcame near-impossible odds to win a gold medal.
The event was so riveting for the Bruins goalie that for years he wanted to do just what his hero Jim Craig did and play in the Olympics, some he finally got to do last year in Vancouver.
“I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie,’’ Thomas said. “Jim Craig sealed the deal. That’s why I became a goalie. My goal, from age five until really 20, was to play in the Olympics, not the NHL. Not that I didn’t want to play in the NHL. But the main goal was the Olympics.’’
Maybe the Bruins’ management deciding to sequester their team in Lake Placid rather than staying in Montreal had something to do with the magic of the locale rubbing off on their players. Whatever the case, something special was in the air for the Bruins tonight as they overcame a deficit three times to defeat the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime.
After surviving a first period shotfest and then going down 3-1 in the second period, Thomas and the Bruins turned the tables on the stunned Habs to even the series. The playoff defeat was four losses in a row for Carey Price at home, going back two years against the same Bruins. By the same token, even though Thomas’ lifetime record there is nothing to boast about (a mediocre 6-10-3), when it mattered most he silenced the critics (some of whom were calling for Tuuka Rask) and 21,000 towel-waving Canadiens fans.
All night the Canadiens peppered him with shots, but their technique of seeking goals off of Thomas rebounds failed to work as it had in the first two games:
About the only thing Thomas didn’t do well was celebrate, instead face-planting at the final buzzer:
And lest you think Price was only wearing goat horns, he deserved hero’s praise for saves like this one:
Bryzgalov sold on the sun belt
Earlier this week we made reference to an article by the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, in which he talked about how Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov’s middling performance in the playoffs could compromise his value on this summer’s free agent market. With the Coyotes sent packing in four straight and Bryzgalov- by his own admission– one of the reasons for their early demise, the always quotable Russian has dropped a new bomb on the media and public with an outspoken avowal that he would sooner go back to Russia than play in a city like Winnipeg:
Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it’s cold. There’s no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family… I’ve been there for just once, maybe twice, when I play in minors (with Cinncinati). It was really cold; I used the tunnels between the buildings to get to the arena. Because it was minus 40-something. Real cold.
Maybe his comments shouldn’t come as a surprise, not only because of Bryzgalov’s reputation as an off the cuff type of guy, but also because he has made similar statements before. Check this interview from back when he was with the Anaheim Ducks, as he sympathizes with Chris Pronger, who after only one year in Edmonton (on a five-year, $31.25 million contract) asked his agent to bail him out of the city of champions.
As the rumours of Phoenix’s impending move back to Winipeg circulate, it certainly seems clear that at least one Coyote will not be making the potential trip north. But after this week’s playoff collapse, it remains to be seen who may take a chance on free agent Bryzgalov. Keep in mind that he wouldn’t be the first Russian netminder to head back to the KHL (think Evgeni Nabokov), where some salaries are even higher than those paid in the NHL (the former Sharks’ goalie signed for $6 million to play for SKA St. Petersburg last June).
All he’ll have to do is find an KHL city with a balmy climate like the one in Phoenix. By the way, maybe somebody should fill Bryzgalov in that Winnipeg is the second sunniest city in Canada, after nearby Portage la Prairie.
Can Preds win if their goalie isn’t stealing the show?
For every team that aspires to the Stanley Cup with a seemingly just average goalie, like the Red Wings with perenniel get-no-respect Chris Osgood, or most of the Philadelphia Flyers teams of the past 30 years, there seem to be a whole lot more who pile their hopes- and a heap of pressure- on the backs of their star netminder to lead them to the promised land.
Nashville is one of the teams whose fortunes will either rise or fall with the play of Pekka Rinne.
However, the likely Vezina trophy candidate was less than convincing in Game 4 of their series against the Ducks, who at one point scored three times in just over five minutes, going on to a 6-3 win.
Even though Rinne got an ovation when he was pulled in that game, his save percentage has slipped to 0.860, as compared to the stingy 0.930 of the regular season. Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle paid a complement to Rinne, but at the same time alluded to the idea of putting bodies in front, a strategy which, while not pretty, is one of the only ways to beat a goalie who usually stops whatever he can see clearly. Said Carlyle after the game four scoringfest:
I don’t think you can say he is not a good goalie. He’s a great goalie. But if you get traffic to the net, there are some tendencies with the way he plays and where his positioning is that we feel we can exploit.
Rinne didn’t seem fazed, either by the loss or by the fact that he was pulled.
“The best part of the playoffs is that you get to bounce back right away,” he said. “There’s no other choice.”
For a team that has only seen the playoffs five times in their 11-year history, never exiting the first round, that notion of having no choice might be an accurate statement indeed.
Former teammates spar on the ice and off
Even without the verbal jabs between Ryan Miller and former teammate Daniel Briere, the Sabres-Flyers series has had its share of heated exchanges, both on the ice and off.
Reports had Miller saying the series would be payback time for Briere’s leaving the team after their president’s trophy 2005-6 season. Miller went on to respond to what he said was Briere’s talking to him on the ice, trying to get him off his game, stating “It’s all fluff coming from him after the amount of years we’ve known each other. You can’t automatically hit a light switch and be a hard ass to me. It’s not going to do anything.”
Miller didn’t just do his talking at the mike, he did it on the ice as well. After Briere scored the winning goal from his familiar sweet spot in front of the net in game two, he got a golden opportunity to tie game four, mid-way through the third period. This time, though, Miller stoned his former teammate one on one and went on to earn the shutot and the game’s first star. For the rather soft-spoken Miller (who used the actual word “expletive” when speaking to journalists this week, rather than swear) the save made more of a statement than any post-game press conference could.