What's wrong with shutouts?

An ex-goalie's affinity for shutouts and the first installation of the top five goalies.

Updated: October 23, 2003, 1:18 PM ET
By Darren Pang | Special to ESPN.com

Shutouts are popping up at a record pace and the conversation around the NHL2night studio is simple: What changes can we make to get more scoring in the game?

I LOVE shutouts. I started 81 games in the NHL and NEVER had one.

Maybe we need better offensive players. Maybe we need smaller ones who don't take up so much space in front of the net and around the slot with their long sticks and perfect positioning. After all, you really shouldn't score from behind that silly goal line that was moved up years ago to improve goal scoring chances, should you?

When there are great scoring chances, the positioning of these goalies is as systematic as Jacques Lemaire's positioning schemes in the neutral zone when the opposition has the puck. These goalies are just so darn sound, it looks robotic ... and I AM JEALOUS.

Let's get to some goalie news around the NHL:

Curtis Joseph
  • Detroit has sent Curtis Joseph to Grand Rapids (Mich.) of the American Hockey League for him to work his way into game shape. My understanding is once he plays two games (expect them to be Friday and Saturday), he'll be recalled to Detroit for a start. It's always difficult when you're sent to the minors, but it's the only route for Cujo. He has to be ready to play if he's going to be moved. If he were to step right into an NHL game and show some rust, it would prolong a trade, as teams would want to make sure he is in top form, or close to it, when dealing.

    I'd expect him to start on the road, not at Joe Louis. It also will be imperative for Cujo to show his strengths as a battler and a motivated athlete who wants to prove everyone wrong, as he has done for his entire career. Teams don't want guys who feel sorry for themselves. For a while, it was natural for him to wonder what went wrong, but not any more. His character has always come to the forefront and now is his greatest test.

    Marc-Andre Fleury
  • How about Marc-Andre Fleury's play so far? Great stuff. He is resilient and that's the best quality to have in the player between the pipes. He gave up a goal on the first shot he faced in the Penguins opener, but he regrouped and earned the game's first star with 46 saves in a 3-0 loss. In my first NHL game, at Minnesota in 1985, Curt Giles scored against me on a 3-on-1 break. I made 18 saves in a 4-1 loss. I started my next NHL game two years later, while Fleury came back eight days later and beat the Wings and Dominik Hasek, 4-3, while making 31 saves. I love his moxie in the net, and I know he will gain more patience around the crease as his promising career rolls on.

    Rick DiPietro
  • Rick DiPietro has been named the NHL's defensive player of the week after putting up some sparkling numbers. He replaced Garth Snow in the opener, and then posted his first shutout by making 13 saves at Buffalo. His stats: a 2-0-1 record, a mini-me-ish 0.83 GAA, and a .956 save percentage. Holy jumpin! This will be his breakout year, and he could very well compete for the top job representing Team USA in next September's World Cup of Hockey.

  • Flyers' Jeff Hackett has been stopping pucks under the radar. He was good in back-to-back shutouts (2-0 vs. Buffalo and 0-0 at San Jose), before beating Phoenix, 5-4.

    Let's move forward to our first rankings of the 2003-04 season.


    5. Andrew Raycroft, Boston Bruins

    Andrew Raycroft
    3 GP, 2-0-1, 1.44 GAA, .948 save percentage
    He has started only three games, but all of them have been memorable. The 23-year-old was brilliant in a 1-1 tie at Florida (34 saves, second star) before making his ESPN2 debut in Dallas, where he turned back 27 Stars shots in the 2-0 whitewash, his first NHL shutout. When the Bruins begin to lose composure and start running around in their own zone, the calm duo of Raycroft and Felix Potvin have the demeanor to settle things down. That showed in Anaheim where "Razor" won 4-3 in OT, making 26 saves.

    4. Mike Dunham, New York Rangers

    Mike Dunham
    4 GP, 1-1-2, 1.93 GAA, .930 save percentage
    He is responsible for all of the Rangers points. Although that's only four, it could very easily be ZERO. He was stellar in the scoreless tie vs. Atlanta, during which he faced 30 shots and earned the game's first star. He made 29 saves in a 2-2 tie with the Hurricanes (second star) and won 3-1 against Mike Keenan and the Panthers by stopping Kristian Huselius on a breakaway late in the first period. He made 34 saves in the game and earned the first star while again performing like a difference maker.

    3. Sean Burke, Phoenix Coyotes

    Sean Burke
    4 GP, 3-1-0, 1.73 GAA, .942 save percentage
    Did a major sports publication really rank him 14th in the NHL? The key to this game breaker is his health. When he's healthy, there might be no more valuable player to his team. All he did early on was dominate. He was the second star in the Coyotes' 2-1, season-opening victory against St. Louis (23 saves, seven power plays against). He then went into Anaheim and stoned the Ducks with 31 saves in a 2-0 win, this time earning the first star. The Coyotes flew all the way to South Florida and beat the Panthers 2-1, with Burke making 29 saves and earning the No. 1 star. He lost his last game 5-4 against the Flyers but still made 30 saves while surrendering three goals on 10 power plays.

    2. Nikolai Khabibulin, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Nikolai Khabibulin
    3 GP, 3-0-0, 1.34 GAA, .951 save percentage
    The Lightning are flying and so is their top goaltender, winning all three of his starts so far. After the coaching staff decided not to play him against New Jersey in Game 5 of the conference semifinals, in what ended up being their last game of the season, you had to wonder what kind of "grit" he was going to have at the start of this season. He has always been a battler and showed that in his last game, a 3-2 win at New Jersey. He rebounded after surrendering two goals in the second period and ended with 29 saves and the second star of the game. Afterward, he said he had to "fight back" in the game, something he didn't do well in last year's series against the Devils. He beat Boston 5-1 (29 saves, third star) and won 5-1 against Phoenix (20 saves, second star).

    1. Pasi Nurminen, Atlanta Thrashers

    Pasi Nurminen
    5 GP, 3-0-2, 1.56 GAA, .942 save percentage
    The Thrashers have united. It started last year when passionate coach Bob Hartley came on board. It became stronger with the tragedies of losing Dan Snyder and the pain that Dany Heatley will endure forever. The team is committed to forge on and be successful, and I am one of many that are cheering for them. How about the little goalie that could? He has been a rock of emotion and strength, saying recently: "Sure it's in my head. I play for both those guys, I don't think its ever going away." His stellar play isn't going away either. He has been in net for every minute so far. He started the season by beating Columbus 2-1 (26 saves, second star). Coach Bob Hartley, a former goalie, doesn't care how big his netminders are as long as they stop the puck. Pasi got the nod for the next game and responded with a 4-3 win over Washington (27 saves). He tied the Islanders 2-2 at Long Island and made 29 saves in the 0-0 game against the Rangers (second star) before the 7-2 shellacking they handed the Blackhawks (24 saves).

    Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN. His goalie rankings appear every other week in Net Effect.

    Darren Pang joined ESPN2 as an NHL game analyst in September 1993. He also works select ESPN National Hockey Night playoff contests and ABC Sports' telecasts. Pang played for the Blackhawks and was named to the All-Rookie team in 1987.