Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Risk/Reward in Goaltending

Okay, so let's talk about goaltending, shall we?

Being a goalie is just a heaping shitload of fun. You get to deny those bastards their goals, you get to make heroic saves, chicks dig you beyond reason (personally, I'm constantly getting hit with flying bras). It's the best position in all of sports.

Until you f**k up.

You can do your job perfectly, with flair, even go above and beyond with some slick break-out passes to your cherry-picking forwards, but the mistakes are what go on the scoreboard. Saves are just a number that pile up in the background--ephemeral and fleeting. But goals against? Those go down in bold print. And they can sully your whole night if you don't hang on to some perspective.

So, as much fun as goaltending is, a night like this, where you own the loss--where you fall on the sword as rightly Brusty did in his comments after the game--these are the nights that eat at you. You know you played well... except for... this, this, and this.

But here's the thing: I look at goalies a lot like I do investments. For every potential risk a goalie takes, there's an equivalent potential reward.

You have your goalies who don't play the puck much other than to cool it down behind the net or maybe a little pass up in the zone. Low risk, low reward.

You have, at the other end of the spectrum, your Brustys, Turcos, Thomases, who love to play the puck and 98% of the time, do so with a positive effect, at least pushing the play out to the blue line. At best, as Brusty did many times tonight, breaking the team out either into the neutral zone or all the way into offensive zone.

And then there's that 2% instance where, like tonight, he got caught behind the net with an opponent on either side and couldn't clear the puck but also couldn't free himself up to get back to the net. Oops. Goal.

High risk, high reward.

It took me Barry's entire first season in Houston for me to understand. I would tear my hair out. In fact, I got so riled about it, my husband gave that wandering goalie move a name, "The Heather."

Mr. C: "Ohhh, Brust is pulling a Heather."
Ms. C: "Shut up. Dammit, get back in your net, Brusty!"

But then I started to understand the position more and appreciate the advantages (and thrills) of wandering goalies. As a fan, it's either an acceptable risk and the entertainment value and potential reward of that style of goaltending is worth a couple of forehead slappers each season, or it's not and you'd rather the defensemen do the puck handling and the goalie keep his ass in the blue paint.

I don't think it's any secret, I don't so much lean to that "high risk" end of the spectrum as I take it some place quiet, get it liquored up, and have my way with it. I love it.

But that doesn't mean I look at this game tonight and think, "Ah well, Brusty gets a pass because he's that's his style." Nope. Because the other goals weren't so hot either, either by Brusty or the team as a whole. Clearly when goals against are coming immediately after goals for, and it's as predictable as it was tonight, there's a chink in the mental armor.

I don't know who KC will play Friday against Texas. He does tend to show faith in Barry to bounce back from bad games, and doesn't seem to have much faith in Dubie.

It's been a tough year for the big guy, but dominant goaltending is the only thing that's gonna get this team up the standings. Apologies to Mr. Hrkac (whose name, I'm happy to realize just now, I can still spell without thinking) as I'm sure his arrival will also help, but it won't be enough on its own.

Focus is what the Aeros need right now. They need it from themselves. They need it from their goaltender. They need it from the coaches. Hell, they need it from the Zamboni drivers and the ice girls and the pretzel sellers. Not to go all "clap to save Tinkerbell" but man, every point they don't get, the closer we are to "good night, drive home safe, see you next year, enjoy the golf."

But no pressure, boys. What are you gripping you sticks so hard for? ;)

1 comment:

artandhockey said...

Amazing.. roaming Brusty was very roaming last night. Fortunately, that other time, Gunderson came to the rescue by slapping the puck away. Wouldn't you know the WORD here is 'comin'...must apply to Hrkac, LOL.
GO Aeros!
Rain or shine, 'true-blue' fans will be there! Duh!