Bzzzzz... Bzzzzzz....

A friend posted a link to this article from the Wall Street Journal on her blog last week and I’ve been stewing on it ever since.

The information in the article isn’t bad. It touches on the various reasons goalies are posting record save percentages (bigger, more athletic) and improvements to longevity (hip surgery, safer equipment).

But the tone makes me cranky, starting with, “Their equipment practically blocks the pucks for them” and continues with the implication that even with modifications to the game and to goalie gear, scoring is still thwarted by the “giant green lizards” of the crease. And that it will only continue to get “worse.”

Back the truck up, buddy.

First, what this article smacks of is someone who hasn’t watched any classic games on the NHL Network in a while.

For every grainy highlight of Ron Hextall, in his minimalist gear,  throwing his body around and robbing shooters, there are 10 more of goals scored on him and every other goalie that would make you cringe.

Ugly, ugly stuff, right through the skates or past the stick or a kicked out leg. I watch those games with my jaw in my lap, aghast that they ever stopped anything at all.

(I know Jagr was/is good, but look at the goalies! Augh!!)

I believe people think they want more scoring but what they really want is more shots on goal. Chances, quality ones, are what make hockey so electric. And the onus of that is on the skaters and coaches, not the goalies.

And really, if you think about it, the better goalies are, the better shooters have to become. Don’t we all love a hard earned, beautifully set-up goal more than cheap goals the goalie should have had?

The other thing that’s obvious is that this writer has never strapped the pads on himself.

Now, I know that every single person who writes about the state of goaltending doesn’t need to have spent time in the crease. But when I see an article like this that really misses the mark in terms of acknowledging the all-important mental side of the position, I wish I could do a goalie mind meld and make them “get it.”

The closest I can come, in lieu of that, is this:  For goalies, shooters are like mosquitoes.

Sure, humans are bigger, but mosquitoes, like skaters, are swift and crafty and legion. They buzz around, trying to find that perfect moment, where you’re still or you’re not looking or you’re busy with something else, and then they BITE.

I don’t have to explain that irritation. You’ve all felt it. No matter how mobile and well equipped you are, both mosquitoes and skaters almost always find a way through your defenses.

At times, it’s the accumulation of stings that wears you down. The mosquitoes literally suck the life out of you. Skaters just do it figuratively, one goal at a time.

And the real challenge of goaltending is having the mental wherewithal to stick to your game and use all these tools (size, technique) in the face of such adversity. Beyond the gear, the coaching, and the rules of the game meant to “contain” goalies, the biggest asset (or detractor *cough*Luongo*cough*) a goalie has is his or her mind.

That’s what the author of that WSJ article fails to recognize, despite addressing every other facet of goaltending: Goalies will only ever be as dominant as they are mentally strong.

There have always been and always will be goalies who are more up for the task mentally than the guy across from them.

So rest easy, all you goalie-phobes who have nightmares of endless shutouts and puck-stopping Godzillas. At some point, every goalie will end up flailing fruitlessly at the relentless swarm of shooters, and you will get your goals.