From Ryan Dixon:
Alternating goalies was a popular practice in the aftermath of expansion in 1967, but has kind of gone the way of the wooden stick during recent decades. These days, teams tend to identify and ride a No. 1 man until a series of softies call his status into question.
But the Nashville Predators are bucking the modern trend and a few other teams are almost in line to follow. Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis have been operating on a straight rotation since Christmas as both goalies have demonstrated they deserve a portion of the starts.
In Chicago, coach Joel Quenneville can’t make a bad call in goal these days, with Cristobal Huet and first-year Finnish stopper Antti Niemi both making all the required saves. And Montreal seems to have finally embraced the idea that 22-year-old Carey Price should have to actually earn the top job, as the Canadiens flip back and forth between Jaroslav Halak and the kid Habs fans still hope turns into the next Patrick Roy.
On the topic of Roy, his career is just one of many that speak to the benefits of breaking in a goalie in a 1, 1A system. After coming out of nowhere to lead the Habs to the 1986 Cup, Roy spent the next handful of seasons forming one of the league’s best tandems with Brian Hayward.
Mike Richter might be the best American goalie ever, but he didn’t become that until after sharing the New York Rangers crease with another Yank, John Vanbiesbrouck. In fact, the two ‘tenders basically carved the blue ice right down the middle in 1991-92, leading the Blueshirts to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Even Martin Brodeur, the Godfather of active goalies, cut his teeth splitting time with Chris Terreri during his rookie season of 1993-94.
Competition, both internal and external, is at the core of what drives sports and athletes. Giving two goalies equal playing time – assuming one isn’t Angry Eddie Belfour – creates a healthy rivalry that should keep both stoppers sharp, while simultaneously giving a coach a nice, big sample of shots and saves to choose from when deciding who to turn to when it matters most.
The Kings are one of those teams “almost in line to follow.” They have to be, because Bernier, whether or not he gets called up this season, really has but two places to be come October, (1) The Kings locker room, or (2) with another team.
This is not just because Bernier has, as Matthew Barry just said, “done everything that was asked of him.” It’s also that Martin Jones will be done with juniors and presumably will be in Manchester behind Zatkoff. At least, that’s the way it has worked so far under the Lombardi goalie apprenticeship plan. So Bernier must move up…to…somewhere.
To me, this means that Lombardi is going to move Ersberg and call-up Bernier. Of course it’s possible I’m “rushing” Bernier in my own mind and really Dean Lombardi is perfectly comfortable with Ersberg as Quick’s back-up. But it doesn’t look like Murray is comfortable; otherwise, Ersberg would be playing more.
The fact that he’s not playing tells me Murray has no confidence in him and so is not going to start playing him now with the playoff crunch getting more and more intense.
Lombardi rushed Quick into service last year because he had to. I think he’ll promote Bernier for the same reason. Because it’s just a better decision to give Bernier some experience so that he — not Ersberg — can be the back-up.
Quick is basically on pace to play 75-79 games, plus the Olympics. The chances of something bad happening (burn-out, injury) obviously increase as the season wears on. The point of having a back-up going into the playoffs is having someone who can be your starter if something “unforeseen” should occur.
I can’t imagine that Lombardi would be more comfortable having Ersberg as his starter than Bernier.
I think either he brings in someone with playoff experience to be the back-up/mentor, or it’s Bernier. And, like I said, it’s Bernier by next fall anyway, unless he’s dealt by then.