Friday, 7 March 2014

Peter Budaj or Dustin Tokarski to start against the Sharks?

Regarding whether to play Dustin Tokarski on Saturday in San Jose, I vote no, emphatically.

I usually can't tell if a goalie is doing well unless it's by referring to their save percentage.  If they stopped pucks, as Devan Dubnyk would say, then they did their job.  But unless I can see a goalie flub a couple of easy shots, let one go through his glove, or Bernier a zone clear, and know he had an off-night, or conversely, make a series of highlight-reel worthy saves and know that he deserves to be awarded a star, I have a hard time analyzing their performance.

In Mr. Tokarski's case on Tuesday though, I think even I could tell there were huge flaws and mistakes in his game.

1)  As described by many, he does look small in his net, there were acreages available for the shooters to targets.  He's a smaller than average goalie compared to the current standard.  He seemed to hunch down, get all compact, maybe getting ready to spring out a pad or stab at a puck with a glove, but until he did, boy could I see a lot of net.  I wonder how Teemu Selanne felt watching the game, he must have been kicking himself, thinking he would have buried five or six if he hadn't been ill.

2)  I would think that a smaller goalie would be quick like a cat, agile, a whirling dervish making impossible saves, like Rogatien Vachon or John Van Biesbrouck, compared to a bigger goalie like Ben Bishop or Pekka Rinne, who would rely on his size to cover as much of the net as possible, cut down angles, and basically let the puck hit him.  Yet Dustin didn't look too graceful or coordinated, epitomized by the play on which Ryan Getzlaf hit the post on a wrist shot.  As the Duck cut across the crease, Dustin went from his right to his left to track his movement, except he seemed to catch an edge, and he tripped and fell down awkwardly on his keister/back, and then flailed ineffectually with his leg pads at a shot he guessed would be targeted top shelf.  Inelegant, and not confidence-inspiring.

3)  During the shootout, in the camera shots from the shooter's perspective, you could see a lot of room between the legs, which a couple of Ducks went for.  Usually, a goalie shows very little room between the pads, as his weight is balanced and he remains ready to move in either direction.  The opening is slim, and I marvel that some shooters can fire a puck through there.  "He went five-hole!", the announcer will say, and I'll ask myself "What hole?"  And when they drop to their knees in the butterfly, then the giant pads do their job, and there's nothing to shoot at.

In Dustin's case, he seemed to have a pause as the shooter made up his mind, when he'd be frozen in an asymmetrical stance, with one knee closer to the ice than the other.  It looked kind of unsteady, and left a lot of room in the five-hole.  Now I'm not sure if it was a trick, if he was baiting the shooters to go there and knowing he could shut the door, but it looked odd, at least.

Now I know Dustin has had to battle the perception that he's too small to succeed his entire career, and prove skeptics wrong at every level.  He battled against the Ducks, overcame some bad luck, got some good luck later on, and ultimately came up with the win, which is what counts.

In terms of who should start on Saturday against the Sharks though, I'm going with the surer bet.  Peter Budaj had an off-night in Glendale, but we can ascribe it to the fact that the team got in at 0300 hr the night before, didn't get a morning skate, and just looked listless in the first.  They fought back in the second, but eventually capitulated when the Coyotes scored their fourth goal.  They can regroup on Saturday, and the Canadiens should give themselves their best chance to win by putting their more accomplished goalie in nets.

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