The Popsicle Brothers: Report No. 4

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: November 8, 2009

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — The key to most Stanley Cup winners are a great goalie. Take a look at the men behind the mask. The goalie is the great overseer and protector of the net.

He has panoramic vision of the ice like no other player. He is also the great communicator with his defensemen and could be the key to his team’s victory or defeat.

A look at the recent NHL standings will find a talented goaltender leading their teams to first place. Last weekend the San Jose Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. Many Bay Area hockey fans watched a young phemon in action.

San Jose witnessed one of the best goal-tending talents this year in Colorado ‘s Craig Anderson who stopped 47 of 50 San Jose shots. Colorado might have lost that game but the Avalanche players knew they had a talent behind the nets.

The Avalanche defenders know they can trust Anderson if an opponent skates by them. The Avalanche’s returned to power in the Western Conference can be directly trace to goalie Craig Thomas.

We call Craig Anderson “The Matrix Man”. If you watched The Matrix Trilogies, there was a lead character named Mr. Anderson. Well after the exhibition that Craig Anderson displayed in San Jose last week, he is admirably deserving of this moniker.

Welcome to the National Hockey League Mr. Anderson.

When hockey fans look at the history of the success of their teams, they discover that most victories happen from behind the nets.

The Philadelphia Flyers may have solved their problems behind the net.

With Fire and Ice guarding the nets the future seems bright. Goal Brother, Ray Emery now wears the Black and Orange after a stint in Russia . This stabilizes the net-minding duties in the City of Brotherly Love .

Many Flyer Fans remember the early 70′s Stanley Cup Champion Bernie Parent. The tragic death of Pelle Lindbergh lead to many years of turmoil in goal and started a parade of men in the Philadelphia nets.

Ron Hextall, John Vanbiesbrook, Brian Boucher, Roman Cechmanek, then the Flyers tired the two headed monster of Martin Biron and Antreo Niittymaki. Nothing seemed to click.

The Flyers with Emery should make a big impact in the Atlantic Division race if they stay with one goaltender.

The middle 70′s belonged to the Montreal Canadiens who win four straight Stanley Cups. They skipped a year and won another cup with Hall of Fame and All Star Goalie Ken Dryden.

The Canadiens would returned to the championship with young brash Patrick Roy in 1992 with his new butterfly style of goaltending. Montreal continued to dominate the NHL with Roy .

Patrick moved on to the Colorado Avalanche after a contract battle with the Montreal brass to win two more Stanley Cups in Denver .

In the late 70′s and early 80′s the upstart New York Islanders, with the goaltending of Billy Smith and Chico Resch shared the net minding duties and winning four straight Stanley Cups. This was the first team to employ the two headed monster in net.

It worked because the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups.

In the middle 80′s The Oilers had Goal Brother, Grant Fuhr behind the nets. Most people thought that playing for the Oilers was easy. Not so !!!! This job turned out to be very difficult.

Why? Because the Great One, Wayne Gretzky and his teammates allowed breakaways that Grant Fuhr had to stop. Fuhr won Four Stanley Cups in six years.

At the turn of the decade 1991-92 the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley cups in a row with Tom Barraso in net. Barrasso had help with a very young sniper Jaromir Jagr and Super veteran Mario Lemieux.

Barrasso is still considered the best goalie in Penguin history. This year Marc-Andre Fleury is trying to make many Pittsburgh fans forget Barraso. If the Penguins repeat this year he might be considered the best goalie wearing Black, Gold, and White.

In the early 1990′s The New Jersey Devils were struggling for identity until number 30 from Canada skated on the ice. Martin Brodeur took control in the autumn of 91 and New Jersey won three Stanley Cups.

As a child, Brodeur watched his hero Patrick Roy and perfected his game after Roy . The Devils also perfected the left wing lock defense, which slows the game down. Players clutch and grab and prevents breakaway goals.

This system has helped Brodeur in New Jersey .

In 1996-97 the Detroit Red Wings were the last repeat champions with net minder Chris Osgood. This little man with the football helmet and cage, commanded respect in the nets.

Osgood had a unique style of protecting his crease which propelling the Wings to repeated NHL championships. He’s added two more Championships at the turn of the century.

Osgood is still starting in net and recorded his 50th career shutout against the Boston Bruins Tuesday night in a 2-0 Detroit Victory. The Wings are only two points behind Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks

This summer, Chicago traded one of the best goalies of the league. Nikolai Khabibulin carried the Hawks to the Western Conference Finals last year. Now Cristobal Huet has to step up and make Blackhawk fans forget the “Bulin Wall”.

The Hawks lead the Central Division. Fans of the Black, Red, and White clad Hawks are wondering if Chicago traded their chance at a Stanley Cup Championship to Edmonton .

They are also wondering how the young 26-year-old Antti Niemi will play in net.

In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins are poised to repeat with stellar goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury. They currently are in first place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 11-4.

The Los Angeles Kings are using a new promotional slogan Pride, Passion, and Power. They just might have something here. L.A. has finally found the right man for the Purple, Black, and White.

The young mobile Jonathan Quick with a 9-3 record and a 901 save percentage, could grab interest in the Southland. The Kings are only one point from first place and that is a vast improvement from the last few years. L.A. won again Thursday night against Pittsburgh, coming back from a 0-2 deficit to win 5-3.

The President’s Trophy was presented to the San Jose Sharks and the stellar goal tending of Evgeni Nabokov.

It was not sufficient the Sharks were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks with goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

“Giggi” destroyed the hopes and dreams of many San Jose Shark fans. This year the Sharks have added a sturdy backup for “Nabby”. Young Thomas Gress will rest Nabokov when needed. This might be the difference in May. It has already given dividends as the Sharks are tied for the Pacific Division lead.

The Washington Capitols have to decide which goalie they want in net. Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov share duties of the first place Southeast Division Capitols. Will the two headed monster work in Washington ?

We will ask this question again in April or May.

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers are currently in second place in the Atlantic Division. This goalie never gets the respect due, playing in the tough conference.

New York always seems to experience scoring droughts and Henrik has to step up his game. The Rangers will not win the Atlantic Division. There are too many solid teams in this division that score goals in bunches. New York has to produce a power line like the old 1970′s (G-A-G Line) Goal A Game Line to relive pressure off Lindqvist.

The Devils will have veteran Martin Brodeur for his 18th season. Number 30 will be breaking many records this year and will lead the Devils to another Stanley Cup playoff run.

Many teams have modeled their potential goaltenders after the perennial All-Star.

Boston Bruin netminder Tim Thomas has been inconsistent all year long and the Bruins have also been inconsistent. Just as he displayed Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Bruins were shutout 2-0 and they were not even close to scoring in any period. Pressure is put on Thomas because he cannot make mistakes. The Bruins lost again Thursday night as the Montreal Canadiens beat them 2-1.

They scored with 57 seconds left in the game avoiding an NHL record for futility.

Another inconsistent and disappointed team could be the Anaheim Ducks with Jean-Sebastien Giguere they are in last place with their defense falling apart. The Western Division has improved significantly this year so it might be difficult to enter the playoffs.

Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres leads the Northeast Division. Buffalo is the most improved team in the NHL with the addition of Miller. This will improve the opportunity for the Sabres to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Buffalo missed the playoffs the last two years by a total of three points.

The great goaltending of retired Goal Brother Kevin Weekes will be missed.

Kevin was never allowed to show his true skills in net traveling from team to team. He was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 1991 and ended his career with the New Jersey Devils in 2008.

However, Mr. Weekes continues to make history by being the first Black analyst for Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Network.