Once in a while, a story comes along that no one can trash. Not the haters or the sky-is-falling types -- heck, not even sports radio. Patrick Lalime is one of those stories.
Sitting behind the highest paid goaltender in the league isn't going to get you much playing time. After all, you gotta make a man work for his paycheck. I say that half kidding because I don't understand the 'player X has to play because the money he makes dictates it' theory.
Player X received his money based on his past; it has nothing to do with his present. If I've said it once on the radio I've said it a million times: You have to pay that player whether he plays or not, so why not do what's best for the team?
Seems simple, but we all know the politics of money play a part. If a GM lies awake at night because a $7 million player is on the bench, shouldn't he sleep well knowing he's paying the starter at the most important position $1 million?
You probably know Lalime's story by now, but if not, here goes. He had great success in the regular season in Ottawa for five years, but his playoff record was only 21-20. So Ottawa traded him to St. Louis after the lockout for next to nothing and he had a miserable 2005-06 season. His record was 4-18 and that was it for him with the Blues.
So Dale Tallon signs him for next to nothing and now, as we think about free agent signings over the last few years, who would have thought Lalime might be the best of the group? Honestly, up till now I didn't (and I'm sure you didn't) really include him in the free agent group that has come in lately. I won't forget about him now.
His play has been nothing short of perfect. Other than leaving a rebound or two in a bad spot, Lalime has simply stopped everything sent his way. What might be most impressive is how he has come out on top in close, OT, and shootout games. I mean, it's one thing to beat the Blues in a route (which is impressive also), but to win back-to-back games on the road via the shootout, now that's pretty cool.
Lalime is a pretty unassuming guy, who I'm sure is benefiting now from the attention he received in Ottawa. That's when he had "pressure." Now he's the backup QB, being asked to fill in because the starter has faltered. There's always pressure to perform, but different roles give the player, team, and fans different perspectives.
If he had just held his own, I'm sure we'd all be happy. But to basically win four games BECAUSE of his play is simply awesome.
I usually don't like to be overly dramatic about one person's play in a team sport, but when it comes to this position and this person, he may have single-handedly saved the season.
I don't know if the Hawks are going to make the playoffs or not, but Patrick Lalime had to come up big to even have a shot and he did.
A story everyone can like.
Email pre- and post-game radio host Jesse Rogers at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to "Inside the Hawks" with Jesse and special Hawk guests Thursdays from 8-9 pm on WSCR 670-AM.