RESCH: Great things about goaltending

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In light of my colleague Stan Fischler including me on his Greatest (New York) MetroArea Goalies list, I couldn't help but reminisce my favorite moments as an NHL goaltender. First and foremost, I'd have to say winning the Stanley Cup with the Isles in 1980 was tremendously exciting because it was a team accomplishment. Everybody contributed from a group of us that were there seven years or so already. We weren't quite getting it done and were taking some hits in the press for not being able to win and not being tough enough. When we finally lifted the Cup, it was so gratifying. There are a few more great things I was fortunate enough to be a part of on the , including the 1975 playoffs, when we were down three games to zip against Pittsburgh. We came back to win four straight games, and as Stan points out, no other goalie in a playoff series had done that since Turk Broda in 1942. It wasn't very easy, but winning that seventh game in Pittsburgh 1-0 is probably my second favorite moment. Number three for me is also a team accomplishment, when the Isles beat the , who finished much higher, in 1975's two-of-three playoff series. I played in the opener at The Garden, which we won, and after we dropped the next one at home, coach Al Arbour came back with Billy Smith in Game 3. Smitty was absolutely tremendous, and then J.P. Parise scored with 11 seconds to go in OT. As much as I thought we'd eventually win the Cup as a franchise, doing as much as we did that year helped give the Islander franchise an "never quit" identity.

The goaltending ritual

There has been a lot made about the routines and superstitions a goaltender has in preparation for a game, but the rest of the skaters are just as superstitious. Phil Esposito didn't allow any sticks to cross over each other in the dressing room; Robbie Ftorek never allowed anything loose to hang on the dressing room floor. But goalies do start out with some pretty unique superstitions of their own. Maybe it's because, as a goaltender, you prepare, have a good warm-up, move well laterally and get a good flow going in your body, but even with that, there seems to be an element of luck in the position more than any other. You can get beat, the puck hits the post and bounces right to you, or it bounces three feet away to an open man ready to hammer it in. You could get beat on a deke, the guy mishandles the puck, and he misses the net, or the puck is shot, hits a skate and goes just wide. Then the next night, on almost the exact same play, the puck goes in the net. You don't see it as a fan in the stands like you do on the ice, but the little changes in the direction of the puck are much greater than most people realize, but as a goalie, you feel them and see them more so. I think goalies are aware that whatever force there is out that controls the breaks of the game, the focal point seems right there in the crease. Superstition comes in because you're so aware of breaks, and if you think about how you got these breaks, you start to repeat the things that led up to them. In warm-ups, Ron Hextall used to finish up by skating from his net to the right boards at the blueline, throw snow there, then take off to the center ice dot and then the left blue-line wall. That was one of many routines. I remember when I was with Philly, one night the Isles came to play, and Billy Smith was standing on the center ice dot during the warm-ups. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Smitty go flying as Hextall skated away from that area. I still didn't known what had happened when Smitty came at Hexy and started barking at him. I asked Smitty what happened, and he said "Hextall just ran over me." I then asked Hextall why he knocked my old partner down and he said it was because Smitty was standing on the dot and ruining his routine on purpose! But they worked it out. Smith didn't like to be patted on the pads or shoulders or helmet on game day. Once he got his focus, he didn't want to be touched and to do so would be very dangerous (especially during the game). Eventually, goalies say they become superstitious NOT to be superstitious, because it's just too tiring. I once kissed both goal posts after they prevented shots that beat me from going in, which was a very spontaneous thing. Yes, they can be your best friends.

Save and a beauty

When you watch a season of baseball or football, there are a couple of defining moments, be it a great catch, or a great game a pitcher throws. But with hockey, game after game, goalies are under siege so it's hard to pinpoint single performances because goalies sometimes make such incredible saves. But playoff series can be a great spotlight on a goaltender like Ron Hextall's Conn Smythe-winning performance in 1987 or 's three playoff MVP wins in 1986, 1993 and 2001. And Hextall won despite our team losing to Edmonton in the Finals. That's one of the best performances I've seen by a goalie in this modern era. And you certainly can't forget Roy's 10 overtime wins in 1993. He just didn't make a mistake, he simply refused. Some goalies give up a bad goal and come back as a stone wall, but not Patrick in that series. If I had to pick one goalie to play one game in the prime of his career — and not just play well, or make mistakes, but play outstanding — it would have to be Grant Fuhr. People don't realize how strong the shadow of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and was on those great Edmonton teams, that unless you really focused in, you didn't realize what Fuhr was doing back there, stopping 2-on-1's and 3-on-1's while playing for one of the greatest run-and-gun offenses. Fuhr was one of the earlier butterfly-style goalies, along with Tony Esposito and Roy, and was fun to watch. Fuhr had a flair and a flow about him and was spectacular. He's the best goalie to have won a Stanley Cup, but never the Conn Smythe. A former Hockey League goaltender who spent fourteen years playing and an additional six seasons as a coach and scout, Glenn ¿Chico¿ Resch brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the broadcast booth. Since 1996, he has served as analyst for New Jersey telecasts on Fox Sports Net. Chico's column appears regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
Tagged: Devils, Rangers, Avalanche

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