Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Being big in goal

It's possible you missed it, given it was the 30-year-old goaltender's sixth career NHL start, but Steve Valiquette took a pretty good turn in the Rangers' net on Saturday.

New York won the game in a shootout, 3-2, and I thought the Star's Damien Cox had the best quip about how that went:
In the shootout, he stopped both Nik Antropov and Mats Sundin, with both deciding the best strategy against such a tall netminder was to shoot high. Go figure.
I knew Valiquette was a big guy coming in, but I didn't realize he was quite this big. Various sources list him as anywhere up to 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, an incredible size for someone tending a six-by-four hockey goal.

Not only is Valiquette the tallest goaltender in the NHL this season, he's the tallest of all time. Not that he doesn't have company this season: Alex Auld is listed at 6-foot-5, and Dany Sabourin and Kari Lehtonen are 6-foot-4.

Maybe it's because I'm a tall guy myself, or maybe it's just because I watched a 6-foot-5 teenager named Devan Dubnyk come in and star for the Blazers, but I keep on an eye on such things. And there's no question netminders are continuing to get bigger, despite the fact logic dictates a tall 'tender would have a heckuva time playing a position that relies on reflexes, flexibility and agility.

On his knees in a butterfly position, the padded top of Valiquette's shoulder is nearly at the crossbar. There's virtually nowhere to shoot on him if approaching from the side, and only going side to side can open a potential hole.

And good luck going high.

Since the dawn of hockey time, most big, tall kids have been put on defence in about peewee, but you wonder if there might just be an advantage in starting to train bigger players as netminders from the get go.

The Maine Black Bears have a terrific kid playing goal for them right now, Ben Bishop, who at age 20 is poised to jump the NHL at some point. He was picked in the third round of the 2005 draft by the St. Louis Blues, and it's looked like a pretty prescient pick so far given, at age 20, he's already one of the NCAA's top netminders.

A Missouri native, Ben Bishop is 6-foot-7.

3 Comments:

At 11:43 PM, November 13, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I've mentioned this before, but I will again because I still think it's funny. In the NCAA semi-final this year, Bishop's Maine team lost to Michigan State. MSU lists their goalie, Jeff Lerg, at 5' 6", but I think they're being generous. I would estimate that there was probably a 14"-15" height difference.

Lerg is ridiculously quick. He's goes side-to-side as well as anyone I've ever seen, and his glove hand makes going high on him harder than you'd think.

 
At 2:14 PM, November 14, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Valiquette is a relly good goalie and I'm still surprised he's only made 6 starts in the League.

The Islanders had both Luongo and Valiquette in thier hands when they were very young. They were a great duo and I thought that was a great tandem and they would both be Islanders for a long time.

Of course, Milbury always had a problem with letting good things stay put. You know he had to f**& it up by trading Luongo for nothing and letting Valiquette go.

DiPietro is good, but Luongo is better.

 
At 4:52 PM, November 14, 2007, Blogger Oiler Mag said...

Dub-Dub is going to be some goalie - when he eventually gets past 6'4" JDD in the Falcons (and then hopefully Oilers) net!

 

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