Photo Credit: Norm Hall
When the Phoenix Coyotes acquired goaltender Mikael Tellqvist just over two weeks ago, they found exactly what they have been looking for all season long, a talented and experienced number-two goaltender.
The Coyotes are 10 weeks into the 2006-07 season and have used a league high four different goaltenders. The Coyotes began the year with Curtis Joseph as the clear number-one goaltender and Mike Morrison as his backup. Morrison struggled early in the season and was replaced by David Leneveu. Leneveu has the tools to be a starting goaltender but he still needed to refine his game before joining the NHL on a permanent basis. So the Coyotes decided it was time to trade for an established NHL netminder. It appears they found their man.
Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished the year with a 41-33-8 record. Ed Belfour was the Leafs starting goaltender and Mikael Tellqvist, his backup. There was a third goaltender in the mix in John-Sebastien Aubin. Aubin played in 11-games last season for the Leafs and posted a 9-0-2 record and after Toronto acquired Andrew Raycroft from Boston, the battle for number-two became even more intense.
Eventually Aubin was chosen to back-up Raycroft, leaving Tellqvist searching for ice-time. However, there would be a silver lining for the 27-year old native of Sundbyberg, Sweden.
On November 28, Tellqvist would be watching TSN form his home in Toronto and learn of a trade, a trade involving him, a trade that would bring him to the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Mikael is a good, young goaltender and we are excited to have him in our organization," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "Curtis is our number-one goaltender but we needed to find a proven NHL netminder who could provide him with some support."
"I was real excited about it," said Tellqvist. "I haven't played in a game (in a while before coming to Phoenix) but I'd been working out, but that's not what you want to do. As a hockey player you want to get a chance to get in there and play some games and I am glad that the Phoenix Coyotes wanted me and they seem like they have good faith in me."
Tellqvist, originally a third round pick (70th overall) by the Leafs in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, has a very impressive international background. He has won both a bronze and silver medal for team Sweden in the World Championships in 2001-02 and 2002-03 respectively. Then in 2006, he solidified his reputation as a world-class goaltender when he helped Team Sweden to a gold medal at the Olympics in Torino, Italy.
Tellqvist began his career with the Coyotes on December 4 against the Nashville Predators. He was cool, calm and collected as he stopped 19 of 21 shots to record his first win of the season and first as a Coyote.
"I just tried to go out there and have some fun," said Tellqvist. "It was my second game of the year and I knew I was probably going be a little rusty so I just tried to enjoy myself."
"He was really good," said Gretzky. "He was very comfortable in there (and) he made the key saves when he had to."
Just three nights later, Tellqvist made his second start with the Coyotes in Chicago where he stopped 30-shots through 65-minutes of play before capturing victory in a six-round shootout.
Two days later, Tellqvist turned in what may be his most impressive performance as a Coyote to date. Despite falling to Dallas 4-3 in overtime, Tellqvist stopped 40-shots, including 28 in the first two periods alone.
Tellqvist appears to be everything the Coyotes have been looking for in their backup goaltender and he provides Phoenix with a solid one-two punch in net. While the full impact of his acquisition will be measured over time, it is clear to both Coyotes management and fans alike that Tellqvist is ready to win and he's ready to do it in Phoenix.