Unfamiliar Territory: The Blessing of Goaltending Depth

Byron Dafoe. Jamie Storr. Stephane Fiset. Roman Cechmanek. Dan Cloutier. Jason LaBarbera.

Familiar? This was the lineup of the scariest horror show Los Angeles has ever seen. From 1995 to 2006, these guys terrorized Kings fans on a nightly basis.

Remember the first time you said “LaBarbera” 3 times while staring into the mirror? Yeah, me too. Before I knew what happened, I had fallen forward on a crappy pokecheck and let in 3 backhanders.

If you still have nightmares, you aren’t alone.

The Kings have been challenged between the pipes for quite a while now, and as teams like the Devils have become known for their solid goaltending, the Kings became known for….uh….how many goalies they could dress in 2 seasons (yes, I’m talking about you, Yutaka Fukufuji).

Fast forward.. stop it right here, guys.

Last season, Jonathan Quick set a Kings single season record by posting 39 wins. The kid made saves that, frankly, Kings fans had only seen visiting netminders pull off.

He won over the starting job with a bang. He won 9 straight. He made the US Olympic team. He battled late in games. He held it together in shutouts. He was consistent.

He gave us hope.

For the first time in decades, the Kings had a marquee goalie that was putting the team on the map. And not in a horror show kind of way.

But wait, didn’t the Kings have some kid…not Quick…some other goalie who was supposed to be really good?

Oh yeah, the other Jonathan: Bernier.

This is where things could get tricky. I think its safe to say that Bernier no longer belongs in Manchester. Hell, he probably could have made the transition last year (but there was no point with how well Quickie was playing). With Quick having a year like he did, where does that leave Bernier?

If handled correctly, the Kings could be onto something major. Something Kings fans have only read about with other teams and thinking, “Really? You’re complaining about having two decent goalies? Try the feeling of being happy with Sean Burke.”

Just think about it: Quick was more than solid last season but started to lag when he became overplayed. He started 72 games last season, 4th in the league. More than Nabokov. More than Bryzgalov. More than Miller. If the last 8 games of the season wer subtracted, he would have posted a scintillating 39-21-4 record (2 were no decisions).

Meanwhile, Bernier proved he could play at the NHL level but hasn’t proven himself to be a starter quite yet. This isn’t an all or nothing case. Imagine if Quick played 50-60 games and Bernier played 20-30.

Goosebumps.

It could however, go a number of ways.

It could be a situation in which both players strive to compete for playing time, constantly pushing each other to improve and find the top of his game through internal competition.

Or it could be a situation in which the Kings have two #1 goaltenders on their hands, and it doesn’t seem that Murray is really a tandem kind of guy.

Offer one as trade bait?

That is a rumor that is floating around, but unfortunately, the market is currently unusually saturated with available competent goaltending, which is why perhaps Dean Lombardi squashed that rumor.

Or, perhaps he is not ready to move one of these young, talented athletes just yet. Not until the potential of these two goalies becomes more clearly ascertainable.

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  1. […] Case in point:  Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings has performed admirably in his first two seasons as the starter (09/10: W-39, G.A.A. 2.54;  10/11: W-35, G.A.A. 2.24) (NHL.com).  Yet fans of the Kings are clamouring to see his understudy, Jonathan Bernier, supplant him as soon as possible.  Quick, figuratively, was Bernier two seasons ago: a young, rookie goaltender with tremendous upside.  But now, since the Kings haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet, it’s apparently time for change.  In some of these cases, it’s the coach who’s wishy-washy.  In this case, it’s the fans. […]



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