Gordon the goalie's goalie relief

"... To have to go through a whole season asking two guys who were really just trying to make a name for themselves as a backup to work their way into becoming an N.H.L. No. 1 was a tough task for both of them."

>>Scott Gordon, on the Joey MacDonald-Yann Danis tandem of 2008-09

Jeff Z. Klein has a few quotes from Scott Gordon (who's at the USA Olympic orientation camp as assistant coach) on his plethora of goalies going into this season -- including a joke about putting 2009 pick Anders Nilsson's 6'5" frame in front of the other net on the power play.

You have to imagine that even with the grief Garth Snow took for the Rick DiPietro situation last season, no one is more relieved about the Islanders' collection of three NHL #1 goalies ["#1" with all applicable asterisks and fine print] than Gordon.

This is cited so often it's become cliche, but it's hard to overstate the importance of quality, consistent goaltending in this sport -- and the effect that has on a team's psyche and play. That extends to the coaching staff as well. Great goalies make players feel good and coaches look good. When your team is in a sky-is-falling stint within a game where nothing seems to be working, it's restorative to confidence and focus when a good goalie -- or even the perception of a good goalie -- bails you out.

2008-09's Green Rank and File


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008-09 Yann Danis 31 1760 10 17 3 1 84 2.86 933 849 .910 2


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008-09 Joey MacDonald 49 2792 14 26 6 7 157 3.37 1584 1427 .901 1


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008 - Rick DiPietro 5 256 1 3 0 0 15 3.52 139 124 .892 0


The Established Newcomers


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008-09 - Martin Biron 55 3177 29 19 5 2 146 2.76 1718 1572 .915 2


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008 - Dwayne Roloson 63 3597 28 24 9 4 166 2.77 1953 1787 .915 1

 

Just as a player will dig deeper into his well when he thinks his goalie is giving the team a reprieve (and, alternatively, will subconsciously think "Why bother?" on the backcheck in game #65 on a long road trip when he thinks his goalie is letting him down), a coach can have a clearer head and more confidence in the viability of his system when he's not worried that his sub-par goaltending is undermining both that system and his players' buy-in to what he's preaching.

That sounds like psycho-babble, but it's one of this game's tough-to-quantify human elements. Watch enough games or play enough and you'll recognize the phenomenon as a familiar human trait.

Which is not to disparage last year's goaltending tandem. Certainly there were moments when MacDonald, Danis and even Peter Mannino stole games for the thin, injury-depleted roster in front of them. But with two, possibly three "name" goalies behind them this coming year, I bet Islanders skaters will be less inclined to look toward their own net to excuse their mistakes -- and more inclined to play with the confident aggressiveness Gordon seeks, knowing their "good" mistakes might be covered by the guy in the big pads

And that should make Gordon (whose playing pedigree was closer to last year's keepers than to this year's) rest easier at night.

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