While Roberto Luongo
and Tim Thomas
were both nominated for the Vezina Trophy this season and represented their countries at the 2010 Olympics, any similarities between the opposing Stanley Cup Final goaltenders end with how they entered the League.
In 1994, Thomas was selected in the ninth round by the Quebec Nordiques -- in a round that no longer exists by a team that no longer exists. By the time Luongo was drafted with the fourth pick in the 1997 first round, the highest selection ever used on a goaltender, Thomas was shuttling between three different leagues on two different continents.
Today they're battling for the Stanley Cup.
For some time, taking goalies at the top of the draft was a recipe for Stanley Cup success. In fact, from 1976 to 1998, 10 of the 11 starting goaltenders who won the Stanley Cup were taken in the third round or higher. That all changed in 1999, when the undrafted Ed Belfour
led the Stars to Lord Stanley over 10th-round selection Dominik Hasek
of the Sabres. That Final marked the first time in the modern era that two goaltenders so overlooked in the Draft faced off in the Final. The feat was practically duplicated three years later, when Hasek faced off against fellow 10th-rounder Arturs Irbe
These exploits marked something of a shift in where goalies came from in their quest for Stanley Cup glory. In fact, since 1998, goalies undrafted or selected behind their counterpart have gone 8-4 in the Final. Coupled with the undrafted Antti Niemi
hoisting the Cup last season, that bodes well for Thomas and the Bruins. But it’s not an exact science.
Four of the last seven Cup-winning goalies have been first-rounders, starting with the 2003 series, the first in the modern era to see two opening-round netminders -- Martin Brodeur
and Jean-Sebastien Giguere
-- face off. If nothing else, it all shows how a goaltender can follow a variety of paths towards Lord Stanley's Cup.