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01-04-2013, 06:14 PM
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From the SI Vault, a piece by Mark Mulvoy:
Jan 11, 1971 - It Takes Two To Win The Cup

Well, it's almost that time of year again, the time for the New York Rangers to begin their annual collapse. But, wait, something is wrong. The Rangers do not seem to be collapsing. Right now they're holding fast in a neck-and-neck race with Boston in the front of the East Division, and for 24 hours last week they were even in the lead. What's wrong with these Rangers? Two goalies, that's what's wrong.

Of course, the Rangers, like every other NHL team, have had two goalies for the last four years and they both suited up for every game according to the rule book. But up to this year the other goalie has been just that: the other goalie. The goalie has been lean, hawklike Eddie Giacomin, who looks like Savonarola and, also like that passionate Italian, has ended up each season a martyr to his own excessive zeal. Aging second-stringers like Don Simmons and the late Terry Sawchuck, who had been one of the best, were there merely to help Giacomin during practice sessions or to stand in the goal about once a month against the Penguins or the Kings. Giacomin, the best goalie in hockey, wanted to play in every game, and his boss, Emile Francis, a former goalie himself, was quite content to have him do so.

The result was that along about mid-February or early March, Giacomin began to look like a man who had been lost on Mount Kilimanjaro for most of the winter. Obviously fatigued both physically and mentally from the strain of playing so often, he would start to fight the puck instead of stopping it naturally. His judgment and his reflexes both suffered, and the effect was that he let in some bad—and costly—goals.

Last season, for instance, New York won only four of its last 18 games, dropping from first place in the East Division to fourth. This was good enough to get the Rangers into the playoffs, but there Giacomin's weariness was even more evident, as indeed it has been over the last four years. In that time the Rangers have won only four of their 20 Stanley Cup games as Giacomin's goals-against average, always under 2.62 during the regular season, rose to between 3.00 and 4.13.

Rather than blame Giacomin for this annual collapse, most hockey people have pointed their fickle fingers at Francis for stubbornly insisting that one goalie can play an entire NHL schedule. The 1964 rule requiring two goalies was not an idle whim of the lawgivers. When expansion introduced the jet plane and coast-to-coast travel to hockey, the two-goalie system became a physical necessity. Every divisional champion and all the Stanley Cup winners over the last three years have rotated two and, in the case of the St. Louis Blues, even three goaltenders during the season.
It looks to me as though Giacomin wasn't as good as his regular season voting record and he wasn't as bad as his playoff performance. Both were caused by Emile Francis's preference for playing one goalie when the rest of the league was playing two goalies.

For those who take style into account, here's a comparison of Giacomin and Villemure from the same article.

Giacomin, who catches the puck with his left hand, and Villemure, who catches it with his right ("We're an ambidextrous team," Ed says), both play somewhat the same stand-up style in goal. However, their similarity ends there.

"You can hear Giacomin all over the ice," says Brad Park, the Rangers' young defenseman. "He's always yelling at us, telling us where the puck is and who is chasing us." Villemure says what needs to be said but does it quietly. "He'll never have a voice like Eddie's," says Park. "Who has?"

As his voice might indicate, Giacomin is also more aggressive than Villemure. If a puck is loose around the goal, Villemure will try to fall on it and get a face-off. Not Giacomin. He likes to control the puck with his stick, make clearing passes to his teammates and even take an occasional shot at an empty net at the other end of the rink. "Someday I'm going to become the first NHL goalie to score a goal," he says.

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