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THN.com Playoff Blog: Goaltending underlying problem for Avs, Sens

Ken Campbell
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Jose Theodore made 28 saves Friday, but let in a goal late in the third, and in overtime. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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THN.com Playoff Blog: Goaltending underlying problem for Avs, Sens

Ken Campbell
By:

As you go through your playoff reading this morning, you’re likely going to come across reams of glittering prose about the likes of Martin Gerber and Jose Theodore and their valiant efforts in this year’s post-season.

Not buying it. Not buying it for a second.

The Ottawa Senators went home last night down two games to the Pittsburgh Penguins and with their heads hung low because of their goaltending. The Colorado Avalanche, meanwhile, blew an opportunity to take a stranglehold on their first-round series with the Minnesota Wild because of goaltending.

For the Senators and Gerber, it was rebound control. For the Avalanche and Theodore, it was an inability to hold a lead in the third period for the second consecutive game.

One of the enduring myths of the playoffs is that a team needs superhuman goaltending in order to win the Stanley Cup. Sometimes that’s true, but most of the time, it’s not. What a team actually needs in order to win is goaltending that doesn’t lose games; and the Senators and Avalanche didn’t get that Friday night.

It seems almost surreal, considering the fact Gerber set a Senators record for saves in a playoff game with 49 and Theodore rebounded from a career that looked on life support to lead Colorado to victory in Game 1.

But the fact remains that both the Senators and Avalanche were let down by their goaltenders in a big way.

That’s because Ryan Malone’s game-winner for the Penguins with 1:02 remaining in the third period should never have happened. And it wouldn’t have if Gerber had simply displayed even a slight modicum of rebound control on the play. Had he either directed the puck to the corner or simply smothered it to force a faceoff, Malone would not have been in a position to drive a dagger in the hearts of the Senators with a wraparound goal.

That goal almost certainly lost the series for the Senators. Even though they had been badly outshot and outplayed, the Senators had willed themselves back into the game with a dramatic comeback, capped by a goal by the fourth line, the kind of goal that usually lifts a team to greater heights.

But it was all ruined by a terrible goal allowed by Gerber. In the end, it didn’t matter that he stopped almost 50 shots and played brilliantly because he failed to stop the most important one at the most important time of the game. And he should have stopped it, plain and simple.

The same goes for Theodore, who allowed two third period goals to blow a lead for the second time this series. Neither of the goals was a very good one, but Mikko Koivu’s tally from just inside the blueline to give the Wild the lead with 1:51 remaining had a definitively bad smell to it.

Given the Senators have so many key injuries and so much trouble scoring, Gerber is simply going to have to be even better for Ottawa to have any hope of getting back into this series. And for the Avalanche to win what has become a surprisingly entertaining series, Theodore is going to have to come to grips with the concept that a hockey game is not over after the first 40 minutes.

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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THN.com Playoff Blog: Goaltending underlying problem for Avs, Sens