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The Workhorse

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Every season there is a debate about whether it's smart to have a workhorse goalie. Some of the best goaltenders in the league (Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, etc.) routinely start upwards of 70 games a year. Most of these teams are fairly successful (even the Rangers have made it to the playoffs every season except last since the lockout) but none of those goalies have won a Cup since the lockout. In fact, none of them have even been in a Stanley Cup final. Sure there could be reasons other than fatigue for the lack of playoff success. Brodeur is old, Nabokov has a rep for not being a big game goalie and Lundqvist is on a extremely mediocre team. So to back up my conclusion I decided to take a look at goalies, after the lockout, who started 80% or more of their teams' games and how they fared in the playoffs or if they even made it.

2005-2006: Martin Brodeur - 73, Miikka Kiprusoff - 73, Roberto Luongo - 72, Marty Turco - 67, Alex Auld - 64

This one is pretty clear cut. Luongo and the Panthers and Auld and the Canucks both missed the playoffs all together. Kiprusoff and the Flames were upset by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Turco and the Stars were likewise upset by the Colorado Avalanche (heh heh). Broduer was the most successful, advancing to the second round, but was handled easily by the the eventual Stanley Cup winning Carolina Hurricanes. The two goalies that made it to the Cup finals were Dwayne Roloson who started 42 games and Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward who started a meager 25 games during the season.

2006-2007: Martin Broduer - 78, Roberto Luongo - 75, Miikka Kiprusoff - 74, Andrew Raycroft - 71, Henrik Lundqvist - 69, Kari Lehtonen - 66, Dwyane Roloson - 66, Marc-Andre Fleury - 65, Marty Turco - 64 

Roloson and his Oilers and Raycroft and his Maple Leafs missed the playoffs all together. Fleury and the Pens, Turco and the Stars, Kiprusoff and the Flames and Lehtonen and the Thrashers were all eliminated in the first round. The last three, Lundqvist with the Rangers, Broduer with the Devils and Luongo with the Canucks were all eliminated without much of a fight from the semi finals. The two goalies that made it to the finals were Ray Emery of the Sens who started 56 and J.S. Giguere who started 53 games. Again, no workhorse goalie performed very well in the playoffs.

2007-2008: Evgeni Nabokov - 77, Martin Broduer - 77, Miikka Kiprusoff - 76, Ryan Miller - 75, Roberto Luongo - 73, Henrik Lundqvist - 72, Tomas Vokoun - 69, Cam Ward - 67, Manny Legace - 65, Vesa Toskala - 64 

Yikes. Miller and the Sabres, Vokoun and the Panthers, Ward and the 'Canes, Toskala and Leafs, Luongo and Canucks, Legace and the Blues all missed the playoffs. Broduer and the Devils and Kiprusoff and the Flames lost in the quarter finals. Nabokov and the Sharks and Lundqvist and the Rangers were defeated in the semi finals. The two goalies that made it to the finals were Chris Osgood with the Red Wings who started 40 games and Marc-Andre Fleury who started 33. The was an exceptionally bad year for workhorses with a majority not even making it into the playoffs.

2008-2009: Miikka Kiprusoff - 76, Marty Turco - 74, Niklas Backstrom - 71, Henrik Lundqvist - 70, Cam Ward - 68

Turco and the Stars and Backstrom and the Wild missed the playoffs. Lundqvist and the Rangers and Kiprusoff and the Flames were ousted in the first round. Ward took his Hurricanes all the way the the conference finals but they were swept by the Pens. Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury made it to the finals again, starting 44 and 61 game respectively.

2009-2010: Martin Brodeur - 76, Jonathan Quick - 72, Miikka Kiprusoff - 72, Henrik Lundqvist - 72, Evgeni Nabokov -71, Craig Anderson - 71, Ilya Bryzgalov - 69, Ryan Miller - 68, Roberto Luongo - 67, Marc-Andre Fleury - 66  

Kiprusoff and the Flames and Lundqvist and the Rangers missed the playoffs. Brodeur and the Devils, Quick and the Kings, Anderson and the Avs, Bryzgalov and the Coyotes, Miller and the Sabres all were knocked out in the first round. Luongo and the Canucks and Fleury and Pens lost in the semi finals. Nabokov and the Sharks made it to the conference finals but were swept by the Blackhawks. The two finals goaltenders were the Blackhawk's Antti Niemi who started 35 games and Michael Leighton of the Flyers who started 31.

The results of this were even more damning of the workhorse goalie than I had expected. No goalie who started more than 64 games in the regular season has ever won a conference final game since the lockout! No Cup could be explained away, hell, even no Cup finals appearances, but not one conference finals win? The lack of post season success is alarming enough but Marty Turco and Miikka Kiprusoff are two good examples of formerly great goalies who seem to get worse every year as their starts mount (Kiprusoff was excellent the first half of last year but clearly out of gas during the stretch run). The era of the workhorse goalie is over. Hopefully, Sacco will take my study to heart and keep Anderson's starts in the low 60's. If not, at least I have some evidence to back me up when I start bitching about Anderson getting too many starts again.