Friday, December 22, 2006

Vezina Leader

So far this season, I have been picking Miikka Kiprusoff as the best goalie in the NHL. I have done this despite the fact that Cristobal Huet of the Montreal Canadiens has had better statistics (per game) most of that time. This is because Montreal was unclear as to who would be their number one goalie at the beginning of the season (Huet and David Aebischer shared the job) until Huet clearly won the job.

Although Kiprusoff still has more games played, the difference in games is a lesser percentage of the total games played as the season progresses and Huet continues to put up some great numbers and play some dominant goal. Huet has a 2.28 GAA and a .933 saves percentage in 23 games so far.

Huet has continued to get better every year he has been in the NHL. He is on the verge of establishing himself as a superstar goalie. Because he didn't enter the NHL until age 27 (and is currently 31) he is not on the typical track of a Hall of Fame goalie, but he does have that as an upside (afterall Dominik Hasek turned 31 during the first season he played more than half of his teams games - and Huet and Hasek do have the similarity that they have lots of international experinece where they have excelled but didn't come to the NHL until they were older). In a worst case, Huet will probably go down as an Arturs Irbe (a very good goalie who played some great hockey before his NHL debut at an older age but not a Hall of Famer).

The questions surrounding Huet are now that he is clearly a number one goalie and has scouts watching him more carefully will flaws be found in his game and how will he adjust? And Huet is already at the age where players usually begin to slow down does he have the staying power to remain an NHL star for 5-10 more years?

If Huet shows us anything, its that talented NHL capable players are out there and missed by scouts. How many of these players get lost in the cracks and never show us what they could have done?

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