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Early 2000s - Best Goalies Ever?


MTH

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Living in Philly and being a hockey fan is tough. You're always told the Flyers don't have a goalie. blah blah blah

"Best they ever had was Bernie then Pelle - since then, nobody!"

Looking back through yearly stats, you can't help but notice the years after 2000 until the lockout had some insane numbers. While the NHL has gone after goalies since the lockout, its turned the position into a who's who of guys who barely stick around. Most average NHL fans couldn't name the top 5 goalies these days. Most sports fans couldn't name 5 starting goalies.

But waaaaaay back when. Right before the lockout; it was a different time in the NHL. Goalies were very good. Sub 2 GAA was not uncommon for several goalies. Save percentages higher than .920 all around. Guys with names we all knew were a plenty...

Then the lockout.

Then we've slid into this clones and drones era of all goalies look the same, play the same and drift through numerous teams.

What happened?

Look at the top 25 goalies in 2000-2001:

1 Martin Brodeur* 28 NJD 72   42 17 11 166 1762 1596 .906 2.32 9 11.3 4297       97 4.45 0 1 1 14
2 Patrick Roy* 35 COL 62   40 13 7 132 1513 1381 .913 2.22 4 10.8 3585       90 14.36 0 5 5 10
3 Dominik Hasek* 36 BUF 67   37 24 4 137 1726 1589 .921 2.11 11 13.9 3904       82 29.97 0 3 3 22
4 Arturs Irbe 33 CAR 77   37 29 9 180 1947 1767 .908 2.45 6 12.9 4406       96 8.35 0 2 2 6
5 Olaf Kolzig 30 WSH 72   37 26 8 177 1941 1764 .909 2.48 5 13.1 4279       94 10.77 0 2 2 14
6 Patrick Lalime 26 OTT 60   36 19 5 141 1640 1499 .914 2.35 7 12.0 3607       89 17.65 0 1 1 2
7 Tommy Salo 29 EDM 73   36 25 12 179 1856 1677 .904 2.46 8 11.5 4364       100 0.55 0 1 1 4
8 Roman Cechmanek 29 PHI 59   35 15 6 115 1464 1349 .921 2.01 10 11.9 3431       81 26.62 0 1 1 4
9 Ed Belfour* 35 DAL 63   35 20 7 144 1508 1364 .905 2.34 8 9.5 3687       99 1.88 0 1 1 4
10 Curtis Joseph 33 TOR 68   33 27 8 163 1907 1744 .915 2.39 6 14.0 4100       88 21.48 0 1 1 8
11 Evgeni Nabokov 25 SJS 66   32 21 7 135 1582 1447 .915 2.19 6 11.7 3700       88 18.04 0 2 2 8
12 Felix Potvin 29 TOT 58   27 22 8 149 1485 1336 .900 2.62 6 8.5 3416       104 -5.34 0 5 5 4
13 Jocelyn Thibault 26 CHI 66   27 32 7 180 1711 1531 .895 2.81 6 8.9 3844       109 -14.48 0 3 3 2
14 Sean Burke 34 PHX 62   25 22 13 138 1766 1628 .922 2.27 4 14.4 3644       81 32.84 0 1 1 16
15 Chris Osgood 28 DET 52   25 19 4 127 1310 1183 .903 2.69 1 8.0 2834       100 -0.27 0 0 0 8
16 Manny Legace 27 DET 39   24 5 5 73 909 836 .920 2.05 2 7.2 2136       83 14.93 0 2 2 4
17 Roman Turek 30 STL 54   24 18 10 123 1248 1125 .901 2.27 6 7.4 3232       102 -2.27 0 1 1 6
18 Byron Dafoe 29 BOS 45   22 14 7 101 1076 975 .906 2.39 2 6.9 2536       97 3.09 0 2 2 6
19 Ron Tugnutt 33 CBJ 53   22 25 5 127 1528 1401 .917 2.44 4 11.6 3129       86 20.82 0 1 1 2
20 Mike Dunham 28 NSH 48   21 21 4 107 1381 1274 .923 2.33 4 11.4 2810       80 26.59 0 0 0 2
21 Jose Theodore 24 MTL 59   20 29 5 141 1546 1405 .909 2.57 2 10.4 3298       94 8.56 1 0 1 6
22 Kevin Weekes 25 TBL 61   20 33 3 177 1742 1565 .898 3.15 4 9.8 3378       105 -8.48 0 1 1 4
23 Mike Richter 34 NYR 45   20 21 3 144 1343 1199 .893 3.28 0 6.7 2635       111 -14.08 0 0 0 0
24 Jean-Sebastien Aubin 23 PIT 36   20 14 1 107 973 866 .890 3.33 0 4.6 2050       114 -12.87 0 1 1 4
25 Brent Johnson

Solid list of names. By the last season before the lockout, the NHL goalie looked like this:

Rk Player Age Tm GP GS W
L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO GPS MIN QS QS% RBS GA%- GSAA G A PTS PIM
1 Martin Brodeur* 31 NJD 75   38 26 11 154 1845 1691 .917 2.03 11 12.5 4555       94 10.31 0 0 0 4
2 Marty Turco 28 DAL 73   37 21 13 144 1648 1504 .913 1.98 9 10.4 4359       98 2.77 0 1 1 32
3 Ed Belfour* 38 TOR 59   34 19 6 122 1483 1361 .918 2.13 10 10.3 3444       92 10.07 0 2 2 16
4 Tomas Vokoun 27 NSH 73   34 29 10 178 1958 1780 .909 2.53 3 11.6 4221       102 -3.63 0 2 2 35
5 Jose Theodore 27 MTL 67   33 28 5 150 1860 1710 .919 2.27 6 13.2 3961       91 15.65 0 3 3 4
6 Dan Cloutier 27 VAN 60   33 21 6 134 1554 1420 .914 2.27 5 10.0 3539       97 4.39 0 1 1 22
7 David Aebischer 25 COL 62   32 19 9 129 1703 1574 .924 2.09 4 13.1 3703       85 22.66 0 1 1 4
8 Evgeni Nabokov 28 SJS 59   31 19 8 127 1610 1483 .921 2.21 9 11.8 3456       89 16.38 0 0 0 14
9 Chris Osgood 31 STL 67   31 25 8 144 1604 1460 .910 2.24 3 9.7 3861       101 -1.15 0 0 0 10
10 Andrew Raycroft 23 BOS 57   29 18 9 117 1586 1469 .926 2.05 3 12.6 3420       83 24.24 0 2 2 0
11 Nikolai Khabibulin 31 TBL 55   28 19 7 127 1414 1287 .910 2.33 3 8.5 3274       101 -1.07 0 2 2 12
12 Martin Biron 26 BUF 52   26 18 5 125 1442 1317 .913 2.52 2 9.2 2972       97 3.42 0 2 2 10
13 Roberto Luongo 24 FLA 72   25 33 14 172 2475 2303 .931 2.43 7 20.9 4252       78 48.42 0 3 3 2
14 Patrick Lalime 29 OTT 57   25 23 7 127 1334 1207 .905 2.29 5 7.2 3324       107 -8.20 0 2 2 17
15 Pasi Nurminen 28 ATL 64   25 30 7 173 1792 1619 .903 2.78 3 9.4 3738       108 -13.41 0 2 2 35
16 Miikka Kiprusoff 27 CGY 38   24 10 4 65 966 901 .933 1.69 4 8.4 2301       76 21.03 0 1 1 15
17 Manny Legace 30 DET 41   23 10 5 82 1019 937 .920 2.12 3 7.3 2325       90 8.75 0 0 0 0
18 Kevin Weekes 28 CAR 66   23 30 11 146 1652 1506 .912 2.33 6 10.2 3765       99 1.12 0 0 0 6
19 Rick DiPietro 22 NYI 50   23 18 5 112 1261 1149 .911 2.36 5 7.8 2844       100 0.30 0 2 2 22
20 Marc Denis 26 CBJ 66   21 36 7 162 1970 1808 .918 2.56 5 13.6 3796       92 13.44 0 2 2 10
21 Robert Esche 26 PHI 40   21 11 7 79 932 853 .915 2.04 3 6.2 2322       95 4.00 0 0 0 31
22 Dwayne Roloson 34 MIN 48   19 18 11 89 1323 1234 .933 1.88 5 11.5 2847       76 28.82 0 1 1 8
23 Olaf Kolzig 33 WSH 63   19 35 9 180 1958 1778 .908 2.89 2 11.3 3738       103 -5.63 0 1 1 6
24 John Grahame 28 TBL 29   18 9 1 58 664 606 .913 2.06 1 4.2 1688       98 1.13 0 0 0 4
25 Roman Cechmanek 32 LAK 49   18 21 6 113 1198 1085 .906 2.51 5 6.6 2701       106 -6.31 0 0 0 2
26 Tommy Salo 32 TOT 49   18 21 7 119 1160 1041 .897 2.56 3 5.3 2791       115 -15.69 0 1 1 2
27 Jean-Sebastien Giguere 26 MDA 55   17 31 6 140 1623 1483 .914 2.62 3 10.5 3210       97 4.54 0 2 2 4

Kipper was out of his mind awesome that season...

I guess I'm getting old.

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Loose thoughts on this, as I often think about this. I grew up between the two worlds, so to say.

I'll also preface this by saying I do not think, nor have I ever though that I am an expert, or good enough to be an NHL goalie. I'm just being realistic with what I have seen, and where I estimate it going.

While I do think the late 90's to early 00's was the era of the "big name goalies", this recent era (2005-2013) is probably the best. Think of the amount of times they have had to change goalie equipment to help "increase scoring". I sense the big equipment argument incoming, but there were much worse offenders in that era, and those guys still kinda sucked even while cheating (Snow). It was a simpler game then. You didn't have a dog pile of defenseman diving around the crease, colliding with goalies, and didn't have the opposing team descending down on goalies like the crows from The Birds.

People forget goalies like Roy, Hasek, and Belfour set the tone for the next generation. People studied their successes and grafted their best traits into the modern archetype of a goalie. Low-shot quality defensive systems that made some of these guys into the confident, big name goalies, most notably Brodeur, were made almost extinct by new rules set forth after the 2005 lockout, which is when goalies had to make major re-adjustments. 

For me, goalies like Kipper, Fleury, Luongo, and Lundqvist inspired the later half of the 2005-2013 goaltending era. Bigger, stronger, faster, more cerebral than most of the 90's/00's guys. Their techniques more defined and practiced. Yet at the same time, retaining the spontaneity and instincts of Hasek and Roy. The game adapted around having a big number one goalie, then eventually was changed to work around that. The 2013-present game is so much more intense, fast, and mentally draining, we've seen the big number one goalies slow down in terms of success. Goalies like Niemi, Leighton, and other middling goalies getting to the cup showed impressionable GM's they didn't need sign an expensive big number one, and could spend the money elsewhere to load up a team. In example: the recent Blackhawks model, or the recent Pittsburgh model with Murray. It became this weird hybrid period where teams still had their bonafide starters, but the young talent waiting in the wings was utilized more for various reasons. Instead of a classic backup goalie who played 5-15 games, you now needed a guy who would backstop you to precious wins/OT points on nights you needed to rest the number one guy. Now work loads are being lightened to 50-55 games to make room for the grind of the playoffs.

Now for this era. I think guys like Price, Quick, and Holtby have inspired goalies everywhere. You can't go to a rink anymore without watching a clone of one of these goalies. Carey Price has been described as a goalie coach's dream. Unfortunately, this has lead to the current clod of faceless, mechanized goaltenders who are too focused on specific techniques like RVH and use it like a crutch in their game. Guys tend to go to general areas now instead of to the puck since they practice it that way a million times a summer. Sure some of these modern NHL guys can win a cup and put up solid numbers, but no one can really say who is better, or if they have staying power in the NHL. Goalies train so much on technique from a young age now that it has become more mechanical than athletic.

Watch a guy like Thatcher Demko, billed to be a franchise savior yet in every NHL showing yet (albeit behind the Canucks...) I've noticed that whenever a play turns broken, or scrambled, he has no response other than to drop, spread, and hope being 6'4'' is enough to get a piece. It's like watching a robot get tripped up because something gets behind its coding. Pure technique cannot carry a goalie, especially with how hectic the game is right now. They need instincts, or "battle" as the buzzwords call it. I'm not saying flop around like a fish, but be able to react on a play. That's why guys like Luongo, Fleury, and Lundkvist are still kicking; the right balance of technique and instinct. It's also why I don't see many names staying relevant like those guys, or even living up to billed potential. Also,  goalie coaches have taught guys so well that technique can be a facade for skill, which is why you see so many guys come in to the pros, but never establish themselves for more than a few years.

The thing that concerns me is the isn't a next wave of namesake guys still. There are unique guys now like Vasilevskiy and Korpisalo that I love to analyze and hope become that, but my list gets shorter every year. As talented as they are, guys like Hart, Demko, Gillies, even a few NHL guys like Murray, Gibson, I just don't see anything other than another goalie to fill the bill. I hope I'm wrong on those accounts, by the way.

TL;DR: word salad, grammatical errors, generalizations, lackluster articulation, etc...

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17 minutes ago, Moose75 said:

Now for this era. I think guys like Price, Quick, and Holtby have inspired goalies everywhere. You can't go to a rink anymore without watching a clone of one of these goalies. Carey Price has been described as a goalie coach's dream. Unfortunately, this has lead to the current clod of faceless, mechanized goaltenders who are too focused on specific techniques like RVH and use it like a crutch in their game. Guys tend to go to general areas now instead of to the puck since they practice it that way a million times a summer. Sure some of these modern NHL guys can win a cup and put up solid numbers, but no one can really say who is better, or if they have staying power in the NHL. Goalies train so much on technique from a young age now that it has become more mechanical than athletic.

I always like to bring up Martin Jones in this scenario.

The guy has been lucky to have had access to pro level goaltending coaching from a very young age. (dad was a part of the Canucks organization). He's been coached heavily since very young and it shows. He's an extremely proficient goaltender and can look super robotic when playing.

My favourite anecdote about Jones is that he spends a good amount of his summer attending "drop-in" games solely to work on his battle and desperation side of his game. And we all know the cluster fuck that is drop in hockey.

What makes that tidbit even more interesting is that it's a notable thing to begin with. The usual defacto for goaltending is coaching technique into your game, not the other way around.

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I won't get into the "best" conversation, as I think it's too hard to compare guys from different eras. But it's absolutely my favorite era. Those 2000 and 2001 years were pretty magical for me — the Devils (and Marty) were amazing, and I was at that perfect age (12 and 13) where everything is just so... cool and exciting. 

1. The goalies themselves were, obviously, phenomenal. Roy! Hasek! Brodeur! Richter! Beezer! Belfour! CuJo! Hell, I even loved some of the "lesser guys" (hardly) like Kolzig, Irbe, Tugnutt Nabakov, Lalime, Theodore, etc.

2. The gear was great, and it was diverse. So many companies, so many of them trying new things (for better or for worse).

3. Style is the thing I miss the most. Almost every single goalie played a style that you could immediately recognize as their own. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with how systemic today's position is, but to my eyes, it's far less entertaining to watch.

Those early 2000's will always be special to me. It's nice to see that it's not just pure nostalgia on my part. 

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I’m a 90s guy but there was carry over into the early 2000s. @stackem30 you are right the amount of different companies of gear guys used, colored gear.different styles.   It was great now it’s robotic.  Don’t get me wrong there are some freakish athletes playing the position today.  But it just lacks originality to me.  

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I think any goalie from today taken by a Delorean to an earlier time would simply dominate. Evolution of the coaching and the athletes.

Why I said era. Just a period when originality was still a thing and the game was at it's peak in popularity.

Sports to me has changed. It's like Moneyball has been used in every sport - why not? - and sucked the fun out of them. Football still has the ability to not be as calculated. It always tries, but fads come and go (wildcat). Hockey and goalies have all become so good that it's boring.

Imagine Dom Hasek playing in the NHL today? Impossible now due to his style and all - but a player with such a unique flair.

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18 hours ago, Moose75 said:

Goalies like Niemi, Leighton, and other middling goalies getting to the cup showed impressionable GM's they didn't need sign an expensive big number one, and could spend the money elsewhere to load up a team. In example: the recent Blackhawks model, or the recent Pittsburgh model with Murray.

NHL goalies are the same as NFL kickers.

Run through whoever until you catch a hot one. Then run him until cools off and find another guy who is hot.

NFL kicker misses 2 field goals in a game? Later bro. Bring in the 10 decent guys who are looking for jobs on Monday to try out.

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47 minutes ago, MTH said:

NHL goalies are the same as NFL kickers.

Run through whoever until you catch a hot one. Then run him until cools off and find another guy who is hot.

NFL kicker misses 2 field goals in a game? Later bro. Bring in the 10 decent guys who are looking for jobs on Monday to try out.

Jonas Enroth two seasons ago. Had like three off starts, got waived, then Leafs signed the dude they just waived for Sparks.

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I wrote in another thread that the biggest change around 2000 was the big improvements to gear, in particular leg pads and CA's, that allowed the butterfly to become the central move.  The "drop and block" is not exciting to watch, but it is effective. Before that, there was alot more acrobatics in goaltending. 

Looking at that 2000 list, they were all reactionary goalies, except Roy maybe who was pioneering the butterfly at the time. Back then you could watch a game and tell who was in net just by their moves...for sure Hasek, as well as Cujo... today it's hard to tell. 

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12 minutes ago, estogoalie said:

Back then you could watch a game and tell who was in net just by their moves...for sure Hasek, as well as Cujo... today it's hard to tell. 

There's still a lot of guys I can tell by the way they move: Price, Lundqvist, Fleury, Luongo, Vasilevskiy, Korpisalo, Rask, Quick, Holtby, Rinne, Niemi, Crawford, Varlamov, Hellebuyck, etc...

A lot of the new newer guys though, it can get confusing.

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8 minutes ago, Moose75 said:

There's still a lot of guys I can tell by the way they move: Price, Lundqvist, Fleury, Luongo, Vasilevskiy, Korpisalo, Rask, Quick, Holtby, Rinne, Niemi, Crawford, Varlamov, Hellebuyck, etc...

A lot of the new newer guys though, it can get confusing.

Agreed. Though, the difference in style is more discreet than the early days. Most regular viewers can't tell, nor do they really care.

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2 hours ago, MTH said:

NHL goalies are the same as NFL kickers.

Run through whoever until you catch a hot one. Then run him until cools off and find another guy who is hot.

NFL kicker misses 2 field goals in a game? Later bro. Bring in the 10 decent guys who are looking for jobs on Monday to try out.

I would actually compare them more to QB's.  A lot of goalies today are forced to play within a system created by the coaches, which forces guys to adapt and change their style.  Lets also also look at the pressure of being the starter and what that can do to a goalie or QB.  Think of all the backup QB's who get their shot after impressive backup performances and then fall flat.  Same thing happens to goalies.  I think it creates more turnaround then if you just develop a guy within the system.  

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22 hours ago, Moose75 said:

A lot of the new newer guys though, it can get confusing.

Maybe they're still in the process of developping said style with the pace of play of the NHL.

I remember reading a VERY interesting article from Mike McKenna explaining the difference from the lower professional ranks to the show and how the speed of the play doesn't change much, but rather the creativity of the players and in turn the possible options a netminder's mind has to account for.  That's an excellent read btw, I suggest everyone takes a couple minutes and reads this article.

Maybe these new guys are just getting their brains used to this and are falling back to "saffer" goaltending until they acquire the proper experience to "get creative" with their own playing.  Be it conscious or not.

Just food for thoughts.

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1 hour ago, Math. said:

Maybe they're still in the process of developping said style with the pace of play of the NHL.

I remember reading a VERY interesting article from Mike McKenna explaining the difference from the lower professional ranks to the show and how the speed of the play doesn't change much, but rather the creativity of the players and in turn the possible options a netminder's mind has to account for.  That's an excellent read btw, I suggest everyone takes a couple minutes and reads this article.

Maybe these new guys are just getting their brains used to this and are falling back to "saffer" goaltending until they acquire the proper experience to "get creative" with their own playing.  Be it conscious or not.

Just food for thoughts.

Interesting. I remember reading a Bernier interview a while ago (sorry I can't find the source) that talks about something similar. Boiled down to him staying back more in the AHL because there's more chaos, and trying to adjust to the top of the crease in the NHL because it's more precise. 

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2 hours ago, MTH said:

I know this exact issue.

When I play A league and when I play down in the C league. I have to adjust my (crap-tastic) game.

I'm just like the pros...

Same. There's a team in my tier that is like tier 3 skill at tier 1 speed. They are always my kryptonite. 

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Personally I feel goalies now are better across the board than ever before. There’s less drop off from starters to backups. I think the position is so well coached from an early age now. The bigger kids are playing the position and the smaller kids are weeded out the higher up the ranks you go. Also kids choose the position now as opposed to being made to play goal by the older, bigger, stronger more alpha kids like in previous generations. So bigger guys who are better athletes and are better coached are making the position very strong. The “style” differences are mostly gone because the position is coached as a science now. There’s a solution for every situation and there’s less deviation from that from guy to guy. 

Also the guys who make it are the ones who learn and understand that technique and fundamentals can only take you so far. The true pros have all that but also are excellent at reading the play and having the ability to make saves when technique won’t help but instead improvisation is all that would work. 

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Agreed, it is definitely coached to a science. Even with the new technique that every goalie seems to mirror, these young folks playing the position are superior athletes in every regard when compared to the previous generations. That's great that Eddie the Eagle ran triathlons back in the day, but position-specific training that athletes receive now is incredible and would leave previous generations far behind. Now ask me which generation I'd prefer to watch, that's a different story. 

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On 10/5/2018 at 3:57 PM, raucebyalien said:

Just found this video; if the 2000s was the best mix of butterfly and athleticism - was the 80s the worse in terms of goaltending vs the talent shooting at them??

I'd agree. Such an odd time period for goalies then.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/3/2018 at 3:03 PM, stackem30 said:

1. The goalies themselves were, obviously, phenomenal. Roy! Hasek! Brodeur! Richter! Beezer! Belfour! CuJo! Hell, I even loved some of the "lesser guys" (hardly) like Kolzig, Irbe, Tugnutt Nabakov, Lalime, Theodore, etc.

2. The gear was great, and it was diverse. So many companies, so many of them trying new things (for better or for worse).

3. Style is the thing I miss the most. Almost every single goalie played a style that you could immediately recognize as their own. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with how systemic today's position is, but to my eyes, it's far less entertaining to watch.

In this time too, goalies wore their gear for at least two seasons. It was always somewhat disappointing to see the same pads at the start of the season. Then you look at guys like Irbe who did all his own repairs (or so I read somewhere).

As far as the science and coaching, I don't even know if all NHL teams even had goalie coaches back then, at least not full time, maybe someone knows this a little more for sure than I?

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13 minutes ago, goalie381 said:

In this time too, goalies wore their gear for at least two seasons. It was always somewhat disappointing to see the same pads at the start of the season. Then you look at guys like Irbe who did all his own repairs (or so I read somewhere).

As far as the science and coaching, I don't even know if all NHL teams even had goalie coaches back then, at least not full time, maybe someone knows this a little more for sure than I?

As far as I know, most teams employed a full-time goalie coach by the early 2000's, if not every single team. I believe a lot of teams had them in the 90's, too.

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On 10/5/2018 at 3:57 PM, raucebyalien said:

Just found this video; if the 2000s was the best mix of butterfly and athleticism - was the 80s the worse in terms of goaltending vs the talent shooting at them??

bwahahahaha, love that one on Whitmore

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