So, everyone is opining about what happened to the Sharks. I've been watching hockey for a very long time and I'm not sure it's the most overanalyzed sport there is, but it's getting that way. People quote meaningless statistics that aren't predictive of anything in the short term or long term.
There is one common denominator to almost every successful team: goaltending.
Everyone says the reason the Ducks won was Hiller, Hiller, Hiller. Yet there's so much talk about the Sharks not having heart or Thornton being a failure or Marleau being a puss. All of these same people would be telling us how big of heroes these guys were if the team won, even if they were out there crying for their mommas the whole game.
Marleau has been around for a while, but the Sharks problems pre-date Thornton's arrival by many years. The Sharks know what it's like to have a goalie steal a series. Artus Irbe or Steve Shields anyone? But who's been there the entire time they were a purported contender? Nabokov. He's the common denominator.
The goalie doesn't always have to shut the other team out. He doesn't have to have a .980 save percentage or a 0.5 GAA. It's about when the save is made. Patrick Roy was never much of a shutout goaltender, and he'd say that himself. Some are. All three of the Ducks' playoff successful goaltenders were, but Giguere especially has something else: an impressive OT record.
You can blame Wilson or McClellan or whoever else you want, but as much as Hiller won it for the Ducks, Nabokov lost it for the Sharks.
It's hard to prove this point about timely saves when the games aren't fresh in our minds and they are reduced to statistics. But at the time, you know a certain save changes the whole complexion of the game.
I think a lot about one single shorthanded goal that John Madden scored in the 2000 finals. It was the turning point of the whole series. He had two chances. The Devils' backup goalie told him to adjust his shot ever so slightly and he scored and the rest is history.
When I bet on the playoffs, I lay my money on the better playoff goalie and it's been a successful enterprise for me.
The only thing worse than a goalie that has no playoff experience is one that's flopped over and over. Guys like Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov.
It's not that there aren't exceptions that I would argue prove the rule. Sometimes a team is just simply too dominant in other areas. I think this applies to the Red Wings, who have never really had an MVP type goalie in his prime. But Vernon, Osgood, and Hasek all made the timely saves, even though they had to make less. The years when the Red Wings had their biggest flops, say 2001, 2003, and 2006, each was at the hand of a goalie who stole it from them.
This doesn't mean I have a replacement in mind. I guess they could work a three-way trade and maybe get Giguere, but I'm not sure he's still in that place. Sometimes they come out of nowhere like Giguere did, or Cam Ward.
But, again, an unproven guy who might someday do something is different than someone who again and again and again hasn't gotten it done.
Time for a new tender in San Jose.