These Stanley Cup playoffs have brought us plenty of memorable moments so far — but the biggest impact might be that the phrase “backup goalie” has been made officially obsolete.
It’s mind-boggling that three of the four squads left have been using their ostensible backups, all of whom have not only filled the role but, at times, stolen the show.
Despite Carey Price’s one-time status as the team’s goalie of the future, we all watched Jaroslav Halak’s name being written into Canadiens lore in the first two rounds.
Antti Niemi — with only 42 NHL games to his credit heading into the playoffs — has irrevocably passed Cristobal Huet on the Blackhawks’ depth chart.
And the Flyers — whose No. 1 on opening day, if you recall, was Ray Emery — saw a combination of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton backstop them to one of the most epic series comebacks in sporting history.
The fourth team still alive is, of course, the Sharks, whose reputation for overplaying Evgeni Nabokov in the regular season is surpassed only by their reputation for choking in the playoffs.
Many teams have been moving toward a one-two goaltending punch over the past few seasons, but these playoffs may be enough to solidify the trend league-wide.
Now, sure, if you’ve got an anomaly like Martin Brodeur between the pipes, or your current ’tender is riding a hot streak, it makes good hockey sense to stick with them.
But it’s worth remembering that even an NHL backup is still likely among the best 60 goaltenders on the planet.
Remember, Boucher — who everyone questioned as the Flyers entered the post-season — set a modern-day record with five consecutive shutouts back in 2003-04.
That doesn’t happen by accident. It means he’s a talented goaltender, backup or not.
Who knows? Maybe the Sharks will lose Nabokov to injury and Thomas Greiss will be the one to finally lead them to the promised land.
The way these playoffs are going, would you really be surprised?
– Daniel Squizzato is a Metro copy editor and blogger for Some Canadian Guys Writing About Soccer and Infield Fly.