Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Road To The Cup-The Goalies


What a difference a year makes. Last year the Rangers goaltending situation was a big question mark. Veteran Kevin Weekes was signed and while he had a good resume he hadn't played at all in 2004-05 due to the lockout. The Ranger coaching staff and management felt he could do the job and be the number one man, the skeptics thought otherwise. Obviously the skeptics were right as Weekes had a so so year and never seemed comfortable in his backup roll. He compiled a 14-14-3 record with a save percentage of .895 and a GAA of 2.95. Think of this for a moment. Ricky Di Pietro who just signed a lifer 15 year deal with the Islanders had a GAA of 3.02 and a save percentage of .902. You still think Weekes had that bad a year? This year Kevin knows his role and if anything he will be pushed for the backup spot by Al Montoya who had a fine year in Hartford.

Al Montoya, 21 years old, had a banner year in Hartford last year. He was 23-9-1 with a GAA of 2.61 and a save percentage of .907. Montoya is getting a shot this year but seems destined to end up in Hartford with an open ticket to the Garden on a moments notice. With Weekes injured right now this is a wonderful opportunity for Montoya to show off his A game. I know most of you think that he is too young and inexperienced but if Weekes comes back and falters look for Montoya to step into the backup roll. I personally think that Weekes will come back better than last year now that he knows his role as a backup. With last year under his belt look for Weekes to come back strong and push Lundqvist even harder.

If Weekes returns to his old form and Montoya continues to improve in Hartford there will be another benefit to the Rangers. They will have a strong trade card in Weekes later in the season when the Rangers will be looking for that tough guy who will be putting them over the top. There are a few teams, like Florida for example, who could use a good goalie and hopefully by then Weekes may fit the bill. A strong Weekes is a winner for the Rangers whether he stays or goes.

Ranger fans and management are all holding their collective breaths hoping that The Prince, Henrik Lundqvist I, returns to the form that made him a Vezina Trophy candidate and that the migraines are gone. As I am starting my 69th year as a Ranger fan I know a thing or two about migraines. The Prince, now all of 24 years old, ended last year with a save percentage of .922 and a GAA of 2.24. He was 30-12-9 setting a Ranger rookie goalie record. There will be much pressure on Henrik this year but he has the temperament to rise to the occasion. Lundqvist, along with Jagr, is the key to the Rangers season. I believe The Prince will rise to the occasion and give the Rangers a genuine shot at the big prize.

The Rangers do have one other goalie in camp. Stephen Valiquette is 29 years old and has been a minor leaguer most of his career. He has played only nine NHL games with the Rangers, Oilers and Islanders compiling a 3-1-0 record with a 2.57 GAA. Stephen is big, standing 6'6" and weighing 217 pounds. Unless there is an extreme emergency Valiquette doesn't seem to be a factor.

The Rangers barring any major injuries seem to be set in goal.

Olympic gold medalist - goal keeper Henrik Lundqvist snorkelling in EgyptICINGS: This goes under the heading of back to business and the love affair with the fans is over. A friend of mine who owns a liquor store sets up a trip once a year with a bunch of kids in the neighborhood where they all sit in one section and get their group announced. Not this year. No program. No seats. They are all sold out so the program is out of existence. So much for fan friendly hockey. The scrooges known as Bettman and Dolan have ended another fan friendly family program. But we will hear all year long how they love us, the fans, as long as we pay for the increased prices for the seats, the beer and the aggravation. Oh well when all else fails I still have my grandson, Nicholas, and his pee wee hockey. No theatrics, no tantrums just a lot of fun. Go get 'em Nicholas.

Henrik Lundquist snorkelling - "Nordic quality combined with the best Egypt and the Red Sea has, namely diving and snorkelling. You just can’t ask more from a perfect holiday" - colona.com.



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