Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pens-Flyers Game 6: Goaltending

Penguins lead, 3-2

It's funny: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Jordan Staal, Danny Briere, Chris Kunitz, Scott Hartnell, Sergei Gonchar, and Kimmo Timonen are all in this series, but they haven't really mattered thus far. They've played fantastic and have performed feats of valor and have inspired awe, but they've done so at a fairly equal pace. The only people that have mattered in this series have been Martin Biron and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Both men have played exceedingly well, with Fleury's breath-taking athleticism overshadowing Biron's more subtle grace. Fleury has bested Biron three times while Biron has been the victor twice. It's an interesting contrast between the two: Fleury, the 1st overall pick with all the tools; Biron, the former first-rounder that has battled through adversity to achieve his potential right at the end of his prime. Both represent the unfortunate realities that face every goaltender, the reality that the position is impossible to master and that you can only hope for a fleeting moment of clarity at the right time. Both appear to have achieved that clarity right now, during the playoffs.

Guys like Martin Brodeur and Dominick Hasek aren't unique because they have exceptional physical gifts or that they can make impossible saves; they're unique because they can make those impossible saves all the time. Goaltending is the most difficult mental position in the world because all you do is think. You think about the last save, the last goal, that girl in the stands, your players, their players, the refs, everything. Every once in a while, though, you achieve that moment of clarity where you can think of absolutely nothing at all. That's when you're at your best and that's when you can achieve greatness. Then, you know, a goal gets scored on your low right side and you start concentrating on blocking that hole and then a goal gets scored high glove and you're completely lost, but still. You had that clarity. Both Fleury and Biron have that clarity now.

The question is, who can reach nirvana tonight?

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