A Child Shall Lead Them
Posted By: Aaron Sims
How about the series between Hamilton and Houston for the right to move to the Calder Cup Finals? Hockey history is happening.
How tough is it to lean on a young goalie in the playoffs? I’ll admit I didn’t think much of Matt Hackett’s performance in the first six games of the West Division Finals. He stepped up in Game 7 to eliminate the Admirals.
The AHL is a developmental league. You’re going to have young players lead the way in one fashion or another. You would think, though, that you’d want a goalie that’s been around the block a time or two to ensure playoff success. Wade Flaherty was 36 years old when he led the Admirals to the Calder Cup in 2004.
There’s no disputing that a hot goalie can lead the way to a title. Since the Admirals joined the AHL in 2001-2002, only two non-goalies have been awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy as MVP of the playoffs (Chicago’s Jason Krog in 2008 and Hershey’s Chris Bourque last season).
My first season with the team was 2005-06. Pekka Rinne was a rookie in 2006 when the Admirals made its last foray into the Calder Cup Finals. With a 2-1 lead in the series against Hershey, Milwaukee dropped the next three and Rinne struggled. In a 7-2 loss in Game 4, Pekka was pulled after allowing four goals on seven shots in 9:14. He played all of Game 5 but stopped just 16 of 21 (the Admirals had 37 shots on goal) in a 6-4 loss. In the clinching game 6, Pekka was pulled just 5:53 into the game after stopping two of four shots. Hershey won Game 6, 5-1.
In 75 minutes over those three games, he allowed 11 goals (8.80 goals against average) and stopped under two-thirds of the shots he saw. Was it his youth/inexperience that caused or exacerbated the struggles?
Pekka had a 10-4 record in the playoffs that year with a 2.86 goals against average and a save percentage at 90.5%. If you subtract the last three games of the Finals, he would have a 10-1 record, 2.19 goals against average and a save percentage at 92.9%.
Of course, Rinne has emerged as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and is nominated for the Vezina Trophy this year.
Hershey was led by veteran netminder Frederic Cassivi against Milwaukee. Cassivi was awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy.
Since then, however, it’s been young goalies leading the way. Carey Price led Hamilton to the Calder Cup in 2007. In 2008, Chicago won the title with Ondrej Pavelec in net. Rookie Michal Neuvirth led the Bears to the title in 2009 and again last season.
This season, two of the three teams remaining are led by rookie goalies. Binghamton boasts 19-year-old Robin Lehner and Houston has Hackett. Former Admirals goalie Drew MacIntyre is the only veteran left at the dance.
If the last five playoff years are an indication, Ottawa and Minnesota may have something special in goal in the years to come.
Honestly, though, I’m pulling for MacIntyre.
Congratulations to the Green Bay Gamblers. They fell just short in the quest for a second straight Clark Cup as USHL champions. Head coach Eric Rud, an old friend of mine, did a great job in his first season.
It seems I’ve had a run-in somewhere in my past with the celebrities who’ve died recently. Several years ago, I attended a college broadcasting symposium in Atlanta. Several members of CNN were there to give us students some things to look forward to in our fledgling broadcast careers. I was riding down an escalator at the Omni Hotel, standing on the left side, when I felt a tap on my shoulder and a gruff voice say, “Excuse me, buddy.” I moved to my right to allow a person to pass by. It was “Macho Man” Randy Savage. He was shorter than me. I said, “Hey,” and he returned the greeting.
Speaking of the afore-mentioned Wade Flaherty…he was the last NHL goalie to allow a goal to Wayne Gretzky.
The great college hockey on-ice rivalry between Wisconsin and North Dakota may be coming to an end. Of course, you know the Big Ten will sponsor hockey when Penn State begins play in 2013. Still, several non-conference games need to be added to the schedule. North Dakota would be a perfect opponent, right?
Not so. Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal writes: During the American Hockey Coaches Association convention in Florida last month, UW deputy athletic director Sean Frazier (who oversees men's and women's hockey) said WCHA and CCHA officials are receptive to having some type of interlocking schedule with the Big Ten. One complication to the Badgers playing against WCHA opponents is that they wouldn't be able to schedule North Dakota — a major rival and perennial national power — because of its Fighting Sioux nickname and Native American warrior logo. UW has a policy that prohibits scheduling non-conference opponents with monikers that defy an NCAA mandate against racially insensitive nicknames. "We'd love to continue our relationship with North Dakota," Frazier said, "but North Dakota has to figure (its nickname issue) out from an NCAA perspective."