Lamothe's patience pays off

Originally Published: February 26, 2004
By Darren Pang | Special to ESPN.com

Perseverance is a wonderful trait.

Marc Lamothe
Lamothe
I saw it firsthand on Monday in Edmonton, where Detroit Red Wings goalie Marc Lamothe played in just his third NHL game just days before his 30th birthday. When you are chasing a dream and loving the game, you can't quit, because you never know what is around the corner. Lamothe's family had flown in from Ontario for the game, but didn't know he was starting. The surprise got even better when he was selected as the No. 2 star in the 1-1 tie with the Oilers, after making 29 terrific saves.

Speaking of the Wings, GM Ken Holland had a chance to sit down with Rich Winter, Dominik Hasek's agent, to discuss details of the remaining portion of his contract. Obviously, the Wings are looking for a bit of relief in return. It's a difficult situation for Holland. He's a loyal GM and, while business is business, he knows there wouldn't have been a parade in 2002 if not for the Hasek's play.

Hasek has returned to the Czech Republic for the next week or so. He's aware of the fact that he may be perceived as a negative presence by hanging around the room and will take himself away from that environment if players and management are upset by it.

Curtis Joseph was on skates Monday for the first time since turning his right ankle over against the Sharks on Feb. 11. He looked good working with goalie coach Jim Bedard in Edmonton. Although there is no definitive timetable, Cujo could be ready in 7-10 days. He's had trouble with that ankle before, so they key will be monitoring it closely so it doesn't get worse. He is also breaking in a new set of white pads and is getting rid of the black and red ones that he originally borrowed from Lamothe during Lamothe's first stint in the NHL.

How about the 0-0 game on Long Island on Tuesday night? Rick DiPietro had 28 saves and Felix Potvin had 33 as both were stars of the game, despite the bad ice.

It was nice to see Philadelphia Flyers goalie Sean Burke come up big on Tuesday with 27 saves in a 3-1 over the Chicago Blackhawks. Flyers fans have to understand it's important to support the guy between the pipes. It was also the always emotional "first game against former team" for Alexei Zhamnov. All he did was respond with a goal and was named the second star.

The Blackhawks have named Stephane Waite, the brother of their 1988 first-round pick Jimmy Waite, as their goalie coach, at least temporarily. Waite worked with Jocelyn Thibault during the offseason, and the Hawks needed someone to help the development of their young goalies. Vladislav Tretiak will remain a consultant with the team, but he isn't able to be on hand consistently enough as he was recently named a senator in his native Russia.

Now it's time for the top goalies since the All-Star break. Keep in mind this is likely the last time you'll see goalies from non-playoff teams on the list, as we'll be focusing on ones who are responding to the pressure of the playoff race from here on out.

So let's get to this week's top five:

THIS WEEK'S RANKINGS

5. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames

Miikka Kiprusoff
6 GP, 4-2-0, 1.51 GAA, .940 save percentage
He won a big one on Tuesday in Colorado, making 26 saves in the 2-0 shutout and appropriately earning the game's third star. Milan Hejduk lead the Avs with five shots on goal, while Rob Blake returned to the lineup and had four on Kipper. The hopes of the Flames are riding on this Finnish-born goalie and he has now improved to 4-2 in his last six games.

4. Marc Denis, Columbus Blue Jackets


Marc Denis
7 GP, 2-5-0, 2.70 GAA, .923 save percentage
Never forget the guy that appears to be all alone and never gets credit, as is often the case for Denis. But holy jumpin', has this guy been good. He got help from Pascal LeClair (No. 1 pick in 2001) who played well in the 3-2 loss at Phoenix and the 4-2 loss at San Jose. Denis averaged over 36 saves per game in his last six games and stopped 93 percent of the shots that came his way. He also compiled a very respectable 2.40 GAA (before Wednesday 4-3 loss to Chicago) on a very porous defensive team.

3. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Mighty Ducks


Jean-Sebastien Giguere
9 GP, 5-3-1, 1.97 GAA, .933 save percentage
It appears as if the Conn Smythe Trophy winner has his game back in order. He's gone 5-3-1 in his last nine games while facing an average of just over 31 shots and stopping 93 percent of them. He is moving his feet well, and although he had a hard time locating a puck between his legs in the 4-0 loss to the Stars, he is making saves look easy again with his fluid movement from side to side.

2. Olaf Kolzig, Washington Capitals


Olaf Kolzig
6 GP, 2-1-3, 2.09 GAA, .943 save percentage
The big guy is at it again. He has been spectacular and was named the NHL's defensive player of the week last week by going 1-0-2 and stopping nearly 97 percent of the shots he faced. He also compiled a nifty 1.26 GAA in the process. Since the All-Star break, he has gone 2-1-3 with a 2.09 GAA and has faced an average of 38 shots per game. The key is he's facing the puck again. He has himself square to the shooter and, most importantly, trusts his own game again. This is a good time for teams who need a goalie to inquire about him because his confidence is sky-high right now.

1. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers


Roberto Luongo
9 GP, 5-2-2, 1.10 GAA, .967 save percentage
He has played like an MVP. He wins games and makes everyone around him better. He faced 306 shots in his last nine games for an average of 34 per game, and made 296 saves, many of them stunning. His GAA was a miniscule 1.10 and he tossed in 3 shutouts, just for giggles. He has presence and charisma in the net, and I would pay to see him play every night, without a doubt.

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.

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