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Goalies: Why Are They So Very Evil?

If nobody else is going to say it, I will.

I hate goalies.

I've always hated goalies. I played goal in road hockey, but even that was just semi-organized self-loathing. My very first article on The Copper & Blue was actually about goalies and why they piss me off. Goalies are the nemeses of all humanity. Goalies make children cry and grown men cry louder. Goalies are the enemy.

I'm not just saying this because the Edmonton Oilers employ Nikolai Khabibulin, either. Heck, Khabibulin got a shutout last night in Toronto, which isn't exactly the hardest thing in the world but all the same. I just really, really resent goalies. They're unpredictable, they're wild, they're expensive, and after one's finished with you all you have left is a headache and a lottery pick. Trusting a goalie is like drinking $5 bottles of whiskey: you might feel good at first but it will absolutely come back to haunt you when you start offering cops a billion dollars not to arrest you.

(You probably thought I was going to make an extreme DUI joke there. That's the other horrible thing about goalies. They're messed up in so many ways.)

Of course the awful experience that has been watching 29 NHL teams go straight through our Russian Maginot Line has influenced me. Nor it it like the too-brief appearance of Devartin Gerbnyk has restored my faith in the mask-wearing section of humanity. Then again, on the Oilers' recent road swing we've seen all the worst that the ignoble profession of tending twine has to offer, helping us onto what feels like a six thousand game winning streak. Bloody goalies. They giveth and you just know they're going to taketh away.

Since this article is going to be too short if I don't start getting specific, I'll take a recent example and look at Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. You remember Jonas Gustavsson? I hope so, we played him last night. He was that guy who Jordan Eberle punched a dopey wrist shot through (I do mean through: it was like Gustavsson tried to get his right arm out of Eberle's way like an overly courteous chauffeur). He was also the guy Taylor Hall fooled the hell out of with a pedestrian backhander. Then he got the yank, having faced six shots.

I can hear the protests from here. So he had a lousy night. Big deal. Everybody does. Except Gustavsson's career is a whole succession of lousy nights. They call him the Monster but I prefer the Goose: he's big, awkward, and craps all over everything. He can't grasp the basics of proper positioning. While he possesses a certain basic agility, he lacks the speed to do anything useful with it. He gives up rebounds long enough to enter orbit. His save percentage last year was a point ahead of Jeff Deslauriers, and he's already 26 years old. Yet he gets far, far more respect than he deserves because from time to time that agility kicks and he can make the occasional spectacular save. He'll play like reeking, fetid garbage for weeks, but he'll pick up a good save or two most games and he'll stop 39 of 40 one night (most of those because of his own stank-ass rebounds). Just like that, all will be forgiven.

(Does this remind you of anybody you know? I'm trying not to bash the Oilers, especially since I'm still fighting off fits of delighted giggles from this winning streak. But good God, if Maginot Line gets one more highlight of the night by making a fine pad save that looked better than it was because his positioning was so awful and resulted in him kicking out a twenty-foot rebound anyway, I'm going to do something more extreme than just a DUI.)

The night before, it was Carey Price's turn to be stupid. He got scored on by Kurtis Foster which is singlehandedly enough to earn a "hell, buddy, you suck" award from me. Kurtis Foster is 7'9" and slower than evolution. When he skates into position for a shot, entire galaxies are born and die off before he can release the thing. Then Price got holed by Sam Gagner, which doesn't sound so bad except this goal was on a clean wrister, short-handed, from a weird angle, on Price's short side. The final goal, when Dustin Penner slid a puck through Price's gaping five-hole with such élan I imagine he was composing a sonnet mid-goal, was merely the icing on the cake. Come on, how hard is it to squeeze your legs shut? Price should take lessons from the girls I knew in university.

Or how about that Ottawa game which kicked off this whole run of invincibility? Picking on Brian Elliott for being useless is like picking on Marc-Andre Bergeron for being short, but Elliott got comprehensively outplayed by a Swiss senior citizen. Don't tell me he was screened on Tom Gilbert's dumb, untipped slapshot from the top of the circle: Elliott followed the puck, went down, squeezed his pads, and got beat because he's terrible. He got the pants beat off of him by Gilbert Brule and Andrew Cogliano: Cogliano slung a pass across the crease looking for Brule and instead of sliding over to meet Brule or poking the pass away, Elliott fell on his ass as if to say "ah, screw this, time for a nap." Possibly he was drunk. I've done that a few times after getting hammered, and we've established that goalies are even more liquored-up than I am. And on Taylor Hall's last goal, Elliott was so far out of the play that he wasn't even visible on the ice when the puck went in!

I'm not just trying to pick on crappy Eastern Conference goaltenders. Dominik Hasek lost the Stanley Cup because Brett Hull's toe was in the crease and because he could hardly have played that entire sequence any worse (what was that clearing attempt? I've seen more convincing clearances at a mattress store). Patrick Roy's greatest moment was getting owned by Brendan Shanahan after showing off a mediocre glove save. Martin Brodeur, the official Winningest Goaltender in the Universe, was so repugnant in the 2010 Olympics that we actually had to replace him with a Vancouver Canuck. These are just recent goaltenders, too: before about 1990, a goalie's training regimen consisted of waving ineffectively at wristshots for half an hour before snorting a pile of cocaine bigger than my head. It has always been this way. There are no good goaltenders, just ones that are temporarily less crappy than usual.

Of course, I'm the crazy one for thinking this. Hockey fans and most of the hockey media fall all over themselves cheering goalies to the heavens. If you ever go to a Canucks game, I recommend that you tally the number of "Luuuuuuuuuuuuuu!"s after Roberto Luongo makes a routine save. People love their goalies, even when they're having their worst season in a decade and being comprehensively outplayed by the backup. When you've convinced yourself you have a great netminder, his actual ability is irrelvant. He just has to get on the highlight reel once in a while and not get too many holes knocked in him and he'll be beloved.

Then, of course, a lot of turn around and blame the goalie for every one of a team's faults if things are going badly. Hey, remember Jeff Deslauriers and how everybody wanted to bury him in the endzone at Commonwealth Stadium last year? He still had a .901 save percentage, which ain't no holy hell but was still better than Martin Biron, Cristobal Huet, Pascal Leclaire, Mike Smith, and other one-time "good goalies". It tied with Steve Mason, who was only Rookie of the Year the year before. Yet Deslauriers was cast out and is lugging his own bags onto the Greyhound with the Oklahoma City Barons while Biron, for example, caught a lovely new contract with the New York Rangers.

Goalies are ridiculous. They are unpredictable. They are dangerous. They are evil. Even now that they're finally doing us a favour instead of taking points from us. The sooner all NHL games are decided with no goalies and scores like 45-39, the better. Well, maybe not better, but at least the goalies will be gone.