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Hockey Daily Dose

Dose: Priceless Backup Plans

by James O'Brien
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

Just moments ago, I bought a “backup laptop.” Providing PHT and Rotoworld updates along with defending the bullied stars of the NHL can take its toll on even the beefiest of laptop processors, after all.

The 17” behemoth I’m running a simple word processor on at this moment was a considerable investment, though I managed to get it on quite the refurbished discount. In a way, I realized that my laptop purchasing ways might echo how I feel about goaltending:

Instead of spending the maximum on your top goalie, try your best to save in that area while also doing what little you can to ensure quality and longevity; but more than anything, have a plan in case your system crashes.

In the case of Carey Price, it wasn’t his system that crashed … Chris Kreider did the crashing instead.



I don’t have a ton to say about the collision; I’ve generally abstained from those sorts of debates over the last couple years aside from wishing that the Raffi Torres and Matt Cookes of the world weren’t so easy for teams to employ even as they destroy the careers of more gifted and talented players. (It’s unclear what the talented-to-mediocre injured victims ratio is for Torres and Cooke, yet I get the uncomfortable feeling that it’s pretty stark).

The bottom line is that the Montreal Canadiens seem to be down an all-world goalie during their best chance to make a Stanley Cup Final since Jaroslav Halak was empowering turtling strategies and convincing the Washington Capitals to cajole Bruce Boudreau into becoming something he’s not.

(Still bitter about that? Yeah, kind of.)

As much as we can attribute this situation to bad luck, it’s a funny coincidence that the Habs find themselves in the same situation that they benefited from in round one: a team’s top goalie (in that earlier case, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ben Bishop) goes down and there’s a clear freefall from No. 1 to No. 2/3/3,000.

While one might counter that the Minnesota Wild exited the playoffs at least one round earlier than Montreal, I think Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should receive some credit for being proactive regarding backup plans while others were pretty lax about it (and are paying for it). Fletcher saw the goaltending mess in front of him and took a low-risk gamble by adding Ilya Bryzgalov to the mix. “Breezy” wasn’t perfect, yet he helped Minnesota make it to the second round (where the Wild gave the Chicago Blackhawks a surprisingly difficult six-game series).

One could argue that Montreal couldn’t see this coming, but my response is two-fold: 1) Price had injury issues during the 2014 Olympics and 2) Every GM should ask himself the question: “What happens if my top guy gets injured?”

I’m not going to wager that I can crawl inside the dark mind of Michel Therrien or the prank-heavy brain of Marc Bergevin, but I’m guessing that starting Dustin Tokarski in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals wasn’t exactly the ideal scenario for the Canadiens. If you substitute Peter Budaj in that situation, it only gets a little bit better.

(Budaj’s not as bad as many believe, but I still wouldn’t want him in that situation.)

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There’s a lesson for fantasy owners: don’t just rely on your top guy or even top guys. Injuries can happen at any moment, even as a playoff run begins and the cupboard for goalies runs bare.

Now, it’s true that there’s only so much you can do when a player bowls over your franchise goalie, whether it’s truly accidental or “accidental on purpose.” Still, decent backup/1B types like Bryzgalov and Tim Thomas were available. Say what you will about Thomas and the rocky season he’s experienced; I’d rather have him in there with a season on the line for my team and money on the line for a pending UFA with two Vezina Trophies on his resume rather than relying on an undersized, inexperienced goalie or a journeyman backup.

My advice is to keep a list (or even a watch list on Yahoo and other platforms) of 3-5 goalies you’d legitimately consider adding if one of your guys gets hurt. Being ready to strike can be key, especially for goalies who are free agents and not waiver adds who would take a while to hit your roster.


-- From the look of things, the St. Louis Blues will go with the duo of Jake Allen and Brian Elliott after they handed Elliott a contract extension. Elliott can be a tough guy to figure, but only spending $3.3 million combined on goalies could really open space for St. Louis to add much-needed high-end offensive pop. The question is: will that high-end offense be available via trade or free agency? Either way, it’s a solid solution to the situation, especially since they could have room for another trade deadline pickup if Allen-Elliott falters.

-- Hey, look at that: Rick Nash now has a goal in consecutive games. The goal from Game 1 didn’t seem all that spectacular since it came in garbage time, but he notched the game-winner in Game 2. Sure, you can still make some jokes (since one came against Budaj and the next happened against Tokarski, you could joke that he can’t score playoff goals against No. 1 goalies).

-- Word is that Pascal Dupuis should be ready for the beginning of the regular season. For all the hysteria surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, particularly deserving concern about overall depth, it’s easy to forget that a solid winger was sidelined all season long.

-- Add Zdeno Chara and Thomas Vanek to the list of players I’m not worried about even if it seems like plenty of other people are worried about them.

-- Can we finally stop worrying about Henrik Lundqvist in big games? You’d think that 2006 gold medal would have already done the trick.

For a full list of injuries and suspensions, click here. Go to Rotoworld's NHL page for breaking hockey news and more.

James O'Brien
James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.