Goalie, going ... gone?

Originally Published: March 9, 2004
By Darren Pang | Special to ESPN.com

Now that Tommy Salo is a member of the Colorado Avalanche, keep an eye out for the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils to shore up their goaltending, as well.

If the Leafs lose Ed Belfour or the Devils lose Martin Brodeur, the duties fall to Trevor Kidd and Corey Schwab, who have been battling injuries. While teams seldom have to turn to their third goalie in the playoffs, in this case, with this much on the line, acquiring a veteran with postseason experience wouldn't be a bad idea.

Though Colorado has a terrific young goalie in Philippe Sauve, he can't be expected to step in for David Aebischer if he falters. Aebischer has been extremely good in his first tour of duty as a No. 1 netminder, but he lacks experience in a seven-game series.

It looked as if Salo was going to be traded several weeks ago, but an injury got in the way. He hasn't gotten too far in the playoffs in his career, compiling a record of 5-16 with a 2.56 goals-against average in 21 games, but he's a solid insurance policy.

It doesn't look as though the Vancouver Canucks are going to make a move in net. But as good as Dan Cloutier has been in his last three regular seasons, he has not posted good enough numbers and key wins in the postseason. Johan Hedberg has had a very successful run in the playoffs and has the charisma to give this team a chance.

So let's get back to some veteran backups who could be moved and could help.

Arturs Irbe is back after playing in the minors for over a year. His name keeps popping up as a potential backup in Colorado. He has another year on his contract, so if he is moved, the Carolina Hurricanes likely will have to pick up a portion of his salary. It's important that Irbe understands and accepts his new role of a backup and mentor. He has had trouble with that in the past, as he is a very proud person and athlete.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks goalie Martin Gerber has strong fundamentals and quick lateral movement to go along with the ability to carry a team -- but again, he has no experience. But if a team that's out of the playoffs is looking for a goalie who can work with a young up-and-comer -- perhaps Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury -- Gerber would fit nicely.

Then there is Steve Shields, who's been out of sight and out of mind working behind Florida Panthers workhorse Roberto Luongo night after night. His likability and ability to fit in a locker room is the key. Dominik Hasek, Mike Vernon and now Luongo have all said he's a perfect partner, which is half the battle on a successful team. He is also the only available goalie who has won two Game 7s in his career. While playing with the Buffalo Sabres in 1997, he relieved an injured Hasek and beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in overtime of the conference quarterfinals. He earned another first-round win three years later as a member of the San Jose Sharks when he beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 in Game 7. So not only is he a good teammate, he has experience. Plus, he is an unrestricted free agent, so it shouldn't cost much to acquire him. Panthers GM Rick Dudley could re-sign him in the offseason -- or when the next season begins. Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig sat on the bench Monday and remains in limbo. Now that they've moved the contracts of Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar and Michael Nylander, GM George McPhee said he doesn't have to move Kolzig. But if the team is going to go through a long rebuilding process, then Kolzig wants to be moved. The key in acquiring Kolzig is that he's owed nearly $13 million over the next two years.

I'd be very surprised if Kolzig ended up in Colorado. From what I heard Monday afternoon, there wasn't any thought of bringing him to Denver.

I love the way Kolzig has played since the middle of January. His game is all about trust in his abilities and positioning, and he has both right now. He thought on Jan. 25, the night he was supposed to play goal for Washington against Philadelphia but was scratched at the last minute, that he had been traded to the Flyers. Since then, he has only worried about the things he can control, and that is stopping the puck. I anticipate he remains a Capital.

So let's get to this week's top five playoff-bound goalies:


5. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames

Miikka Kiprusoff
5 GP, 3-2-0, 2.42 GAA, .907 save percentage
If the playoffs were seeded based on Monday's records, then Kipper would be playing the Sharks, his old squad and the one that gave him his chance in the NHL. Darryl Sutter has given him a second life in Calgary. The Flames work their tails off defending their net and allow Kipper to see the puck. He has gone 3-2 in his last five games, beating Phoenix 4-2, winning 4-2 at St. Louis and then whipping the Avs 7-1. He also lost 5-1 at Dallas and 2-1 at Detroit.

4. Manny Legace, Detroit Red Wings

Manny Legace
5 GP, 4-0-1, 1.18 GAA, .959 save percentage
The mighty little backup has been a terrific No. 1 with Cujo on the shelf. Legace made 37 saves in a 1-1 tie against Tampa Bay on Monday night, but Cujo will be back in the crease Thursday at Columbus. He won 2-1 at Calgary (33 saves) and 4-2 vs. Philadelphia, when he only had to make 18 saves. He made 53 saves on 54 shots combined in his last two starts -- wins over Calgary and Vancouver. He may have the quickest glove in the NHL right now, which complements some great legs down low.

3. Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens

Jose Theodore
5 GP, 4-1-0, 1.96 GAA, .928 save percentage
The Canadiens are 10 games above .500 and own the seventh spot in the East. Theodore has been terrific all season. In his last five games, he's stopped 129 of the 139 shots he's faced. He started out this five-game trek with two overtime wins -- the first one a 3-2 win at Boston and the next a 1-0 win vs. Carolina, making 18 saves. He then beat New Jersey 2-1, with 28 saves, before losing to San Jose 4-3. He rebounded with a 4-3 win at Phoenix.

2. Marty Turco, Dallas Stars

Marty Turco
5 GP, 4-0-1, 1.38 GAA, .940 save percentage
It's difficult to believe that Pat Quinn didn't know Turco was a Canadian when it came to talking about goalies for the World Cup! Since Jan. 1, Turco has given up two or fewer goals in 18 of his 27 starts. He tied L.A. 1-1, making 27 saves, then beat Minnesota 3-1 and Edmonton 5-4. He has given up only one goal in his last two starts, beating Calgary 5-1 (22 saves) and San Jose 4-0 (another 22 saves). He has the personality and presence to get it done, and I am sure he will be a different goalie during his second stint in the playoffs. This guy could be carrying the Conn Smythe when it's all said and done.

1. Nikolai Khabibulin, Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikolai Khabibulin
5 GP, 4-0-1, 1.77 GAA, .935 save percentage
Khabibulin is undefeated in his last nine games, as the Lightning continue to roll on in the East and the race for the President's Trophy. He stopped 16 shots in a whitewash of the Avalanche, in Colorado, by the score of 3-0 on ESPN2. He then beat Chicago in the Windy City 5-3 (27 saves), New Jersey 3-2 and then Florida 5-3 (39 saves). He also turned in a huge 28-save performance in a 1-1 tie against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena to preserve the Bolts' first-place standing in the league. The Lightning play a fast and furious style of hockey, which means the goalie will have to bail them out on occasion, something he couldn't do in the postseason last year. His confidence is high right now and he's making big saves, which also coincides with the key arrival of defenseman, Darryl Sydor. This team is for real.

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.