November 16, 2007

Cooking Up Controversy

With Thanksgiving approaching those of you in the US, it turns out that it’s not just Mom and Granny on the hot seat when it comes to cooking up something good and turning out another great performance. It’s the middle of November and we have some good battles between the pipes in some organizations. Here’s a look at some of the more intriguing ones.

Mathieu Garon vs. Dwayne Roloson—Edmonton Oilers

There is no doubt that Garon has been outplaying Roloson this year. Garon has more wins, as well as a better goals-against average and save percentage that Roloson. The question is whether or not Garon can keep his hotness. If you remember, Garon got onto a hot streak in Los Angeles in ’05-’06, but once he was anointed the starter, he fell flat on his face.

As for Roloson, could this be an age thing that is keeping him down or the team in front of him letting him down. Either way, Roloson hasn’t been able to keep his team in the game or make the big save to motivate his team. Should the Oilers struggles continue, it could Roloson on the hook for most of the blame.

Wazz’s Take: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Garon get more starts as the season progresses, but the balance will go to Roloson.

Nikolai Khabibulin vs. Patrick Lalime—Chicago Blackhawks

Though both have played respectively well, it seems that once Lalime or Khabibulin gets a leg up, they fall flat in their next outing. Lalime has found a resurgence of sort in Chicago and has seemingly gotten back to the form that helped him become the #1 in Ottawa. If he can stay healthy, Lalime could push Khabibulin hard and ultimately usurp the #1 job.

Khabibulin has been on a three season Stanley Cup hangover. He has yet to find his niche in Chicago, which could be a lack of confidence or the inexperience that in front of him. With two-consecutive 26-loss seasons, Khabibulin is in danger of wasting away his #1 spot, not only in Chicago, but in the NHL as well.

Wazz’s Take: Lalime needs to confidence to take over the top spot in Chicago, but with Khabibulin’s struggles—he may have no choice.

Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Dany Sabourin—Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins as a whole could be considered a disappointment this season, but the goaltending has been the center of attention. Fleury has not progressed as a starter in the NHL, almost looking like he’s regressed. With a 3.43 GAA and .896 save percentage, Fleury’s name has popped up in trade rumors over the year. However, that could be throwing out the baby with the bathwater in that instance.

Sabourin has been a great story for the Penguins and himself, but how long could the trend last?? Already this season, Sabourin has matched his all-time high in games played with nine, a mark he set last season in Vancouver. Though he has come of age in the Penguins system, one has to wonder when the luster will fade.

Wazz’s Take: Fleury won’t be traded; that much I know. Whether or not he’ll be demoted to #2 or not is something that is in his hands.

Andrew Raycroft vs. Vesa Toskala—Toronto Maple Leafs

This battle has been a hot topic since Toskala was traded for in the summer. Toskala has gotten the majority of starts and in some games he has look spectacular. In the other games, he looked completely hung out to dry. In his first defined year as a starter, the jury is still out on Toskala as a starter.

Raycroft has had a fall from grace since winning the Calder in 2004. He has played as bad as some would have you think, but it has been bad enough for him not to make many starts this season. Whether or not Raycroft can stake his claim if Toskala stalls remains to be seen and we don’t know if that chance will ever come.

Wazz’s Take: It’s so hard to judge what the Leafs are going to and it’s almost to the point where many are ready to stop guessing…me included. Good luck, Leafs—you’re going to need it.

Now these are just some of the battles going on. With the situations in Ottawa and Montreal still lingering, there’s sure to be more fireworks as the season rolls along.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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