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Legace: An insider's look at goaltending

by Manny Legace

Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his first post-season shutout stopping 26 shots in a win over Ottawa. Fleury highlights
Goaltender Manny Legace, an eighth-round pick by the Hartford Whalers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, played five seasons in the minor leagues before embarking on a nine-season NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues. He led the Wings to the playoffs twice, and in his second season with the Blues, made his first All-Star team. Legace shares his thoughts on the starting netminders in this year’s playoffs exclusively with

Today, Legace looks at Friday night’s four series. Thursday, he detailed the other four series.

Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh – Marc-Andre Fleury has never really stepped up and grabbed the bull by the horns until late this season. Since he’s come back from his injury, he’s been phenomenal, including a shutout in Wednesday’s Game 1.

It’s always been shocking because in the past they went out and got Tom Barrasso and won those Cups. They’re very young and they’re very talented, but they’ve never gone out to get anyone more experienced to back him up. They can say, “Hey kid, you’re still No. 1, but we’ve got somebody to play behind you.” Someone like Curtis Joseph. I figured with Mario Lemieux there, they would do it this year. That’s kind of shocked me that they wouldn’t go out and get someone like that.

Ty Conklin is a good backup and he’s been around, but he’s not a guy who’s gone deep in the playoffs. With the team they have, I think they’re a contender, even though they are so young. It could be a concern.

I think there’s so much dissension going in Ottawa’s dressing room, so many problems, and it’s taken its toll. The goalie situation, what the goalies are doing … They’ve got the talent to do it, but I don’t think they’re mentally able to win.

For them to win, Martin Gerber has got to stand on his head. It’s that simple. You know they’re going to be shaky going in. It’s been a shaky three or four months for them. There’s no confidence going in, so he has to instill that confidence. He has to stand on his head maybe for the first two games, not just the first game. They’ve been two different teams, one day they’re the best team you’ve ever seen, and the next they’re the worst in the League.

Philadelphia vs. Washington – Cristobal Huet has been pretty good since the trade. I thought he did a great job in Montreal against Carolina in the 2006 playoffs. I’m picking them to win it. I love that team right now. They’re playing with inspiration; they’re having a great time. They’ve been playing playoff hockey for the last month.

The Capitals remind me of a team that we ran into in Detroit when I was there. We ran into a team that was playing playoff hockey for a month before the playoffs in Edmonton in 2006. Dwayne Roloson didn’t have much playoff experience, and he played phenomenal against us. He had been playing playoff hockey for a month before that. I think this is the same situation. They’re playing really well right now; they’re ready to go. I like their make up of a team. I think they’re ready to go.

Martin Biron sat behind Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller when Buffalo made the playoffs all those years, but he never played a game. What he could have learned is how important it is to at least be around that playoff atmosphere and know what it takes -- to watch a guy, to see what it takes to prepare to go through it, that grind of a seven-game series. We’ll see how it is for him. John Stevens, the Flyers coach, is a good friend of mine. I’d like to see him win.

New York Rangers vs. New Jersey – Playing against Martin Brodeur, you see shooters react the same way as when they played against Dominik Hasek. When they get the puck on their stick, it’s like, “It’s Marty Brodeur. What do I do?” And once you get a shooter thinking, you’ve got him. It’s the aura around him, what he brings to that dressing room, to that team overall. He just has to step in the room and just stand there. Just knowing he’s there is just phenomenal.

It’s somewhat the same with Henrik Lundqvist. He’s big, he moves extremely well. He’s got great reflexes and he looks huge in there. The way he plays, his style, he plays wide, he looks massive in there. It’s intimidating looking down the other end of the ice at him. He’s come over here and adapted to the game very well. I think he’s been playing phenomenal.

Henrik Lundqvist
One thing Lundqvist has to remember is that it’s just a regular goalie over there. You don’t want to psych yourself out, thinking you have to do something different because of the guy at the other end of the rink. It enters your mind, same as playing against Patrick Roy. A guy might think, “I have to stand on my head tonight.” Most of the time it just backfires and it ends up hurting you. But knowing just how Marty plays in big situations, it enters your mind.

Colorado vs. Minnesota – What stands out to me about Nicklas Backstrom is his calmness. It doesn’t seem like he ever gets rattled. I’ve been watching him for two years, and I’ve been very impressed with how calm he is in any situation. Nothing rattles him, nothing fazes him. He plays the same way the whole time. The playoffs last year taught him a lesson and he’s going to be a lot better this year.

I don’t know what’s changed in Jose Theodore’s life because he struggled for three years. He was on a big deal, so he’s going to get a chance to play. Maybe having a new goalie coach has done wonders for him. Working with Jeff Hackett, he knows his game perfectly. Maybe they just worked it out. Having a guy that understands you, that works with you, maybe that’s just what he needed. Everybody in the League has the skill to play in the League, it’s just getting over your mental preparation, getting out of your own way to go forward.

With the team he’s got in Colorado, he doesn’t have to win games. It’s not falling on him, and I hope he realizes it, so he can go out and play. He doesn’t have to win games for them. The only thing holding back that team is going to be him. He doesn’t have to go out and win games; he doesn’t have to be the first star every night. He just has to play within himself. He doesn’t have to go out of the norm to win a series with that team.

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