Sports Scene: ‘Goalie controversy’ a media fabrication

By Nick Pitts
February 26, 2009

So I have finally figured it out.

The media hates us.

That is right. The media hates the Philadelphia Flyers and that is all there is to it.

I am over the fact that ESPN does not cover our games because apparently college basketball trumps the National Hockey League. I suppose I won’t lose sleep over Mike Richard’s third, and record-setting, mind you, three-on-five goal of his career not cracking the coveted top 10 plays.

Finally, when the Flyers get coverage, it comes in the form of criticism, and I am just so tired of every sports writer getting it all wrong.

The latest story to be fabricated out of desperation is the “goalie controversy” that seems to be stirring among the depths of the Wachovia Center.

Well, yeah, now that there is a giant write up about a half truth on a globally appreciated site like ESPN, somehow that makes the controversy concrete, and now there is a dire competition when before it was just two guys, happy to do a job, stop pucks and make the fans of Philly happy.

The latest media pressure creates something that simply is not there.

Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki are the most cool, calm and collective people, both between the pipes and off the ice.

These guys are each others biggest cheerleaders and they happen to be very complimentary as net minders.

In the “ideal” situation, a team has one tried and true goaltender that plays the bulk of the 82 regular season games.

So far this season, some giant names have fallen to injury, perhaps from overuse?

St. Louis Blues keeper Manny Legace was injured three separate times this year, and is currently playing for their affiliate farm team because he cannot seem to regain his swagger.

New Jersey Devils famous Martin Brodeur needed elbow surgery in the offseason and is finally planning on returning in the next week, after missing two-thirds of the season.

The most peculiar case, however, is San Jose Sharks guy, Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov started the first three games for the Sharks last season before finally receiving a day off. I wasn’t too surprised when he went down earlier this season with a knee injury.

Not many people without a severe hockey sickness can name their understudies.

A tandem goalie system has worked in the past, and there is no reason why it won’t work again.

Take a look at the Detroit Red Wings. In 1996-97 Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon shared goalie duty. That was a cup winning team. They did it again together the following season. In 2007-08 Osgood played with a should-be-retired Dominik Hasek, and the two even shared time in the playoffs before Hasek choked and Osgood took over to eventually win another cup.

The Wings won those cups with superior defense and an ability to score on demand. Those teams could dominate, no matter who you put between the pipes.

Need proof? Phil Myre and Pete Peeters. The only thing those two did together back in 1979-80 was anchor the Flyers 35-game unbeaten streak, a record in professional sports in North America to this day.

Flyers Coach John Stevens is a smart man, he knows when either goalie has played too much and needs a break, and is certainly not afraid to pull one masked man for another when the team is in need of a momentum change.

Stevens pays attention to stats, realized that Niitty will never lose a game against the Atlanta Thrashers and plans accordingly. I said to myself after Niitty won a huge game, ‘he needs to start tomorrow night too.’ Sure enough, Stevens started him. Be it Marty or Niity, when they earn another start, Stevens grants it.

As much as the media wants to see one of these guys come out and take the reigns, the truth is that they both play well when called upon, and if sharing the crease is what it will take for a Stanley Cup in Philly, Stevens seems prepared to distribute the workload.

By the way, around this time last year reports came in from media outlets that couldn’t tell a puck from a soccer ball claiming that General Manager Paul Holmgren was trading Jeff Carter for Tomas Kaberle. Yes, it is true, there was contact between the Flyers and the Maple Leafs, but the trade deadline came and went, Carter was still wearing orange and black and writers were still talking about how Kaberle could have really benefited the team.

A year later, Carter is second only to Alexander Ovechkin in goals. Kaberle and the Leafs have lost four more games than they have won, and Kaberle himself has four goals and a minus 12 rating.

Good call on that one fellas.

I’m eager to hear what the media claims will be the “smart moves” for Philly as the trade deadline edges closer. Gee, Brian Boucher had himself a decent year as a backup in San Jose, maybe they should bring him back, eh?

If anyone is looking for a real story line, you might want to start with pretty boy Danny Briere, and what he has done for the team lately.

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Nick Pitts

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