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10-29-2013, 09:54 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Montreal
Country: Canada
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Spending the majority of your professional time preparing to play but not actually playing takes a very distinct skill set and mindset. In baseball, there's a whole culture behind relief-pitchers. Some of the weirdest and most-interesting characters in the sport made their living facing no more than a handful of batters a game. But unlike hockey, baseball has very few relievers who aspire to become starters. Relief-pitcher has become a distinct job description on its own and not a lower rung on the promotion ladder. In hockey it's trickier, because backup goalies are often ex-starters on the downslope of their careers or aspiring starters heading up. Unlike baseball, there's no prestige in being a backup. It's not a specialized niche, it's one step away from the real job. This season's backups include guys who have to crane their necks to see the heights they've fallen from, like Brodeur, Tim Thomas and Giguere, and guys who are looking at their prime and wondering WTF happened, like James Reimer. An NHL backup goalie is rarely a settled soul.

And then there's Budaj. What makes him so valuable is that he's one of the few solid backups who appears to have dug into the position and made it his own -- he's not upwardly mobile and he's not in decline. He seems to have a great rapport with Price -- you see the two chatting every time Price skates to the bench -- and he has the gift of being a great observer of the game during the majority spent watching from the bench. On a team like the Habs, where there's no debate over the starting goalie position, Peter has become our professional relief-pitcher, the guy who treats each of his limited appearances as A-Games, and not as auditions for something bigger.

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