RJ's got some choice words for Jay Feaster regarding his comparisons between Nikolai Khabibulin to Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis:
Steady, not spectacular? Give us a chance? How about be able to steal a few? I do like Holmer, the kid has huge potential, but a number #1? I'm not sure about that. Time will obviously tell. But to say Kahbby was at the level of Denis and Holmer, and just had a little more help, is being ingenuous. Nik was a legitimate #1 elite goalie when we acquired him. When we got him from Phoenix, he had not won a playoff series, but then again, he was in Phoenix.
If you remember, had Khabby not been spectacular, we would not have won the cup. HE won game 7, period. Steady may get you into the playoffs, hell, horribly inconsistent got us in this past season. But spectacular is needed to win the cup...see Kabby, JS Giguerre, Brodeur, Hasek.
Now, the Lightning draining the Calgary Flames over the course of the series was part of the reason they won game seven. It's not a "period" scenario with Khabibulin. That's not crapping on Nikolai but there are many other places where I would herald him (and many other places where I could say "That won us game Seven of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup final"). Going back to 2003-04 I can also point out that Nik wasn't the same Khabby that had come to Tampa Bay and stood on his head behind a woeful team and kept them in games that should have been slaughters. He had focus issues and he wavered. It's the only reason why John Grahame ended up getting ice time at all. To also look back -- there were rumors of Khabibulin's imminent demise in Tampa due to poor play down the stretch.
But is Johan Holmqvist Nikolai Khabibulin? Nope. Is Marc Denis? Nope. Was John Grahame? Absolutely not (and if you want to highlight inconsistent mediocrity in goal, all one has to do is look at Grahame in 2005-06).
The comparison point between Nik, Holmer and any other goalie making stops they have to. There's no way to compare the goalies in other ways -- Khabibulin was and is all world when he's on. Brodeur and Hasek are all world when they focus and they are on. But with a strong team playing in front of any netminder (and limiting shots) it becomes a case of the goalie simply having to make stops that they must -- I'm not talking about the acrobatics, I'm talking about routine.
Yeah, that's not stealing games... But its saying the Lightning have to avoid the nights of going through the motions instead of playing hockey. It's those nights that should remind us why the Lightning weren't good enough to get beyond the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons. That's a bigger problem than between the pipes.
That's not saying RJ's concerns are misplaced when worrying about goaltending in Tampa. Lord knows I have friends chiding me about the Lightning between the pipes... That IS saying the Lightning haven't had an all world goalie since BEFORE 2003-04... In 2003-04, once he woke up and started making the routine stops (while not facing an onslaught of shots), Khabibulin was what the Lightning needed in net -- steady. If Holmqvist, Ramo and dare I say it, Marc Denis can do that instead of being expected to be the second coming of Nikolai Khabibulin circa 2001-02 or Darren Puppa circa 1995-96... The Lightning will get as far as their defense affords them. But if the Lightning go back to allowing too many odd-man rushes on net each game, the team is reaping what they've sown in hanging their netminders out to dry for the third season in a row.
Saves can uplift teams, don't get me wrong... But solid play all around can offset the need for dramatic goaltending. If the Lightning themselves can raise their consistency, goaltending won't be an issue.