I don’t really have to emphasize too much the importance of quality goaltending in ice hockey, but maybe my neighborhood L.A. Kings could use a quick primer.
When news broke this week that goalie Mathieu Garon had injured his groin in practice, I chuckled at the thought of the die-hard Kings fan, cursing the heavens and saying “please not THAT groin!” You see, coach Marc Crawford has been ever-so-stubborn about platooning his goaltenders, despite the huge disparity of play (a disparity so wide, I believe it is visible from space).
Here’s a quick look at what I’m talking about:
Mathieu Garon, 5-5-2, 2.65 GAA, .903 sv%How far apart is this? Well, if Cloutier (pictured above in his classic pose) wanted to match Garon’s GAA and sv%, he would need to stop the next 164 shots-on-goal over the next 376 minutes (more than six regulations!). Cloutier in 16 appearances has only 3 games where he stopped 90% of the shots he faced.
Dan Cloutier, 4-8-2, 3.85 GAA, .862 sv%
See, what gets lost in the shuffle a bit is that the Kings (netminding aside) are a pretty strong team, especially lately. In the calendar month of November, the Kings played 13 games, going 5-6-2. They scored 3.46 goals-per-game (3rd in the west), had a PP efficiency of 33.3% (1st in the west), and had a shot differential of 5.4 shots-per-game (3rd in the west).
The problem? Goaltending, all around. Kings goalies had a collective 4.03 GAA and an .848 sv%. Even Garon’s awesome October (1.72 GAA, .941 sv%) turned into an awful November (3.61 GAA, .856 sv%), though that was still markedly better than Cloutier’s numbers (4.35 GAA, .839 sv%). Had there been a .900 sv% goaltender in all 13 November games, the Kings would have projected to a 9-1-3 month (assuming they lose all 3 OT games), and would be currently sitting in the 6th spot in the west with 31 points.
The Kings need quality goaltending badly, and they certainly are not getting it from Dan Cloutier (the worst goalie in the world, now with a two-year extension!). Now Garon is hurt, and the Kings are prepping for a home-and-home with their neighborhood bully Anaheim Ducks.
In related news, I'm having real trouble getting this ear-to-ear grin off my face. Go get 'em, Ducks.