Commentary

Philadelphia Flyers' confidence game

Quick hooks, pressure have swagger in short supply for Philly's keepers

Updated: May 6, 2011, 3:02 PM ET
By Craig Button | Special to ESPN Insider
Michael Leighton and Brian BoucherRob Grabowski/US PresswireConfidence is in short supply as Philly's crease carousel continues to spin.

"[A goalie's] job is to stop pucks … Well, yeah, that's part of it. But you know what else it is? … You're trying to deliver a message to your team that things are okay back here. This end of the ice is pretty well cared for. You take it now and go. Go! Feel the freedom you need in order to be that dynamic, creative, offensive player and go out and score. … That was my job. And it was to try to deliver a feeling." -- Ken Dryden, "The Game"

The playoffs begin and we hear the same tired clichés: "you can only go as far as your goaltender will carry you," or "goaltending wins championships." It seems we are always looking to classify the goaltender as a savior or a goat, one or the other. Seldom do they fall in the middle.

It's the playoffs and there is a winner and a loser and a sense of finality that only increases the tension put on the men between the pipes.

It often seems unfair, but the very nature of the goaltending position isolates the person playing, providing him both with undue credit at times, but also unnecessary criticism. Part of that is because it is extremely difficult to assess a goalie's worth based on his statistics alone. And all you have to do is look around these playoffs to see that.

Of the remaining starting goaltenders in the playoffs, reigning Stanley Cup champion Antti Niemi sits below all of them in terms of save percentage. But despite his position on the bottom rung of the statistical ladder, the Sharks march on, winning games seemingly with every confidence in Niemi.

Ah, confidence. Now there's an intangible that no stat can measure and one that figures prominently in the future of the Philadelphia Flyers, who trail the Boston Bruins three games to none as they head into Friday night's Game 4.


To see what's plaguing the Flyers' netminders and where the blame ultimately falls for another crease catastrophe, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Craig Button contributes regularly to ESPN Insider. Since 1988, Button has worked in the NHL as a scout and later as director of scouting with the Minnesota North Stars, becoming director of player personnel after the franchise relocated to Dallas. He later served as vice president and general manager of the Calgary Flames. He currently works as an analyst for the NHL Network.