2008 Has Been Year of the “Backup”

Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the Pittsburgh net tonight for the first time since injuring his groin a month ago, just one of many highly-paid #1 goalies who have missed significant playing time this season therefore thrusting his respective backup into a starting (and sometimes “starring”) role.  What’s significant about that?  Well for starters, never before has there been such a huge disparity between the salaries of A-level goalies vs. everyone else.   Until this past week Danny Saborin has kept the Penguins in each of their games compiling a 6-6-1 record with a .911 SV%.  Are those the numbers of a number one?  Not really, but the Pens have remained within striking distance of the Rangers and Flyers which is exactly what teams should expect from backups, i.e. give them a chance to win when the number one is out.  For 1/10th the cost ($512k vs. $5M for Fleury) Saborin did his job.  Here’s a look at some of the other backups finding themselves with a chance to play in the limelight this seaon.

Tim Thomas shooting for the number one position.

Tim Thomas shooting for the number one position.

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Fleury or Osgood for Conn Smythe? Ummm…

Will another Stanley Cup rid Chris Osgood of his Rodney Dangerfield reputation? Will a first Stanley Cup get Marc-Andre Fleury invited to Team Canada’s Olympic squad in 2010? Hopefully the answer to each question is ‘yes’. Will one of these two accept the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP? Odds are that answer will be no, although each has played well enough to lay claim to it.

12 of the 42 Conn Smythe winners have been goalies, and in two cases (Ron Hextall in 1987 and Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003) came despite losing the finals. 1-in-4 odds aren’t bad but certaintly aren’t enough to simply bet on the best goalie in the finals. Each time the Conn Smythe has been won by a goalie its come from a dominating performance that simply couldn’t be ignored. Continue reading