An NHL goaltender’s mindset is slightly different when he starts the season as his club’s No. 1 option, as opposed to being suddenly thrust in that position. Peter Budaj would know, because he’s been on both sides of the fence.
After receiving the majority of the workload during the 2008-09 season (56 games), he appeared in just 15 contests for the Avalanche a season ago. Now, he’s once again in the spotlight while Craig Anderson is out of the lineup with a knee injury suffered prior to an Oct. 26 contest in Vancouver.
“Definitely I wouldn’t say it’s the same. It’s a different approach,” said Budaj. “You need to be even more sharp. A No. 1 goalie is a tough job because you play every single game and you get tired and everything, mentally tired. With backups it’s a little different.
“You have to stay ready so you don’t take games lightly. You never know what can happen, so you have to stay sharp. That’s a little bit tricky. Sometimes you take it lightly, boom, you’re in net, you had your chance and that chance is going to slip through your hands because you’re not ready. “
The early results have been positive from Budaj’s recent stint as Colorado’s No. 1 netminder have been positive, as he’s posted a .914 save percentage, a 2.61 goals-against average and one shutout. More importantly, he’s led the Avalanche to a 3-1-1 record during that span, which hasn’t come as a surprise to any of his teammates.
“When Andy went down it was obviously a blow to our team, but we have full confidence in Boods,” said forward Brandon Yip. “He’s out there every day after practice working hard. He used to be a No. 1 goalie, so he’s capable of stepping in and doing a great job for us.”
Like Yip, Avalanche forward David Jones
also credits Budaj’s focus and work ethic for his ability to successfully hold down the fort.
“Boods has jumped in and played great,” said Jones. “He’s a guy that works really hard. He’s always one of the last guys out on the ice taking shots. It goes to show his work ethic. We have full confidence in him.”
To Budaj, being ready at the drop of a hat is all part of the job. The toughest aspect of a situation like this, he says, is getting his timing back while reacquainting himself with the type of approach it takes to play every night.
“You’re a professional and you try to prepare the best you can even if you don’t play,” said Budaj. “It’s a little adjustment mentally playing every game, but it’s a positive adjustment. I like to take a lot of reps. It’s an opportunity for me so hopefully I can make the most of it and help the team win hockey games.”