Oh for a win…
With today’s announcement that Peter Budaj is being replaced between the pipes by Andrew Raycroft, Avalanche fans can hardly be blamed for their exasperation. To date the last time our boys in burgundy won a game that counted was April 19th, as Mr. Propecia, Jose Theodore completed a magnificent series against the Wild.
Since that fateful day the Avalanche have been beaten, beleaguered and turned into a virtual punching bag by the NHL. The easy out at this point is to blame the goalies for the team’s futility. It is typical and hurts less than admitting the futility may run deeper.
To be honest, Budaj hasn’t been David Aebischer blowing the first save of every important game bad. Rather, the man has been put into a situation that no goalie wants- he has been turned into a pylon by his defense.
To many goalies this feeling can be summarized in three words: Drop in hockey.
Drop in hockey to many who play is a great way to stay in shape. It is fast moving and exciting. Passes fly, players attempt new moves and shots, and everyone has a bunch of fun…except the goalies.
To most goalies, drop in hockey is a voluntary descent into the 10th circle of Dante’s Hell. You know the part with divorce lawyers and commercial artists. Except if that part of hell featured hockey with no referees, and nobody played defense.
It is an empty feeling, playing behind a bad defense.
A great defense saves a goalie in one major way- they keep the shots down, literally and on the score sheet. Great defensemen clear the puck, move opposing players out of way, and maintain order in the defensive end.
A bad defense doesn’t always do any of the above, which causes shots to go up. When faced with too many shots a goalie, no matter how good he is, is prone to overcompensation and panic.
To summarize the descent in to goalie hell let me explain. More shots cause a goalie to work harder, this makes him tired, tired becomes exhaustion, which makes him start leaning, falling down, and flailing. This causes goals to go up, which finally causes said goalie to overcompensate and panic.
It is a miserable and humiliating experience.
In the first three games of the new season, Peter Budaj, who again hasn’t been that bad considering the circumstances, has been seen falling out of the crease like he’s getting shot by a sniper. Budaj isn’t squaring to the puck. He is playing small. He can’t even seem to focus enough to catch easy wrist shots in his glove. And the worst part is that little of this behavior is really his fault.
I am legitimately concerned about the Avalanche this season. As I stated before they will score goals, and they do. But this team will go absolutely nowhere until their defense decides to play as a unit throughout their top six. Otherwise they may need to stock up on goalies.
On the bright side, perhaps management will decide to pick up a top-flight defenseman at some point this season rather than throwing money at Peter Forsberg. I can only hope.
We are already down to Andrew Raycroft, people.