The great debate
-- continued from page 1 --
Roy's style is a refinement of both.
It's become vogue to draft goalies who have copied Roy's style -- mostly netminders from Quebec, where nearly all of those youngsters have copied Patrick's style, from Martin Brodeur, to Roberto Luongo to Daniel Cloutier, et al.
But even Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin, all the way from Russia, says Roy was his biggest influence.
''We used to get NHL games on TV, sometimes two weeks afterward,'' Khabibulin remembers. ''But the first time I saw Roy play, I started trying some of his moves. After that, I never missed watching him when I had the opportunity. In fact, I had a friend who used to barter to get me tapes of Patrick.''
New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter laughs at the development of goaltenders from the 1970s to Roy's mid-1980s. Once Richter went through the famed Eddie Shore school of technique in the American Hockey League, where Shore tied his netminder to the goalpost so that he couldn't leave his feet -- and he had to stand up and face the shooter.
''But I'm a different goalie now than the one who joined the Rangers in 1988,'' he says. ''In fact, I wouldn't be in the League anymore if I was still a standup goaltender all the way.
''Look at the flow of the game, from up and down the wing to a criss-crossing skating and passing game -- especially the quick passing game in front of the net that has forced goalies to go from side to side. Let me tell you, you can't do that if you stand up."
So, picture this, an almost impenetrable area a couple of feet off the ice from post to post.
"You might argue that if a goalie goes down you should shoot up high," says Red Wings center Steve Yzerman, who came into the league in 1983-84, "but it's not that simple. There's a lot less room to shoot at than 10 years ago."
And, Gainey says, it's a lot more difficult than you might think.
"Put the game on the line," he says, "and with all of that pressure, the puck, which weighs about five or six ounces, all of a sudden weighs 15 or 20 pounds when you try to lift it off the ice."
Ninety-percent save efficiency is much more telling than pitchers getting batters out more than seven out of 10 at-bats, or defenders holding shooters to 50 percent in basketball.
And Dallas Stars center Mike Modano adds one more piece of information that may help show why goaltenders now have the upper hand on shooters:
"Right-handed shooters like Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull have an advantage when they try to get the puck off the ice because most goaltenders catch with their left hand," he says, showing how a shooter -- in order to lift the puck with some authority -- has to fire it across the goalie's body. "A left-handed player like myself would be lifting the shot across the goalie's body right into his glove hand, unless we shoot it on the backhand." (Only Roman Turek, Tomas Vokoun and J.S. Aubin, among the League's regular goalies, catch with their right hands.)
"That's something I never thought about," Richter says, with a wink. "But he's right."
Plus, says Hull, goalies have other advantages that are not so obvious to the naked eye.
Where once pads were heavy and stiff -- and It might have taken a goalie nearly a year to break them in -- now they are lighter, custom-made, allowing for more agility ... and made with fibers that don't soak up the wetness of the ice and perspiration and become water-logged.
"Yes, I could get these old bones up and down faster than I could when I broke into the NHL," former goalie Grant Fuhr reported recently.
And while we are talking about the side-to-side flow of the game today primarily being influenced by a European style of play, we can also add the increasing number of European netminders who are born into the game facing those north-to-south scoring chances -- from Dominik Hasek and Khabibulin to Evgeni Nabokov and Turek.
''Hasek taught us how you can be in an all-out attack mode on the puck and be a success in this League,'' Red Wings goalie Curtis Joseph says. ''People can call us unorthodox, but you don't get style points for a win.
''It's all about stopping the puck.''
All of these various theories on how to beat goalies -- or how you can't anymore, you choose --and the things goaltenders have done to stop the puck make for a more difficult game to score in.
You could say that translates into the incredible shrinking net. But this is a tribute to the goalies of today, not a plea to make the net bigger.
Larry Wigge has seen 'em all from Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall to Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek during his long tenure as a hockey scribe.