May 15, 2010, 5:00 PM EDT
One of the lingering lessons of the Olympics (for me, anyway) was how far European/non-North American goaltending has come in the last four years. Just look at the great tournament Jonas Hiller had for the Swiss national team. That trend is definitely continuing in the NHL playoffs as three of the four conference finalists feature a goalie born and trained outside of Canada.
Antti Niemi is the longest-surviving Finn now that Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins somehow managed to get reverse-swept. Evgeni Nabokov is a native of Kazakhstan and played for Team Russia. Jaroslav Halak provided steady netminding for Slovakia before he became a household name in Montreal.
But it’s interesting to note that despite Canada’s historic dominance between NHL pipes, only one of the teams that has advanced has a Canadian backup: Montreal, with Carey Price.
Supporting Nabokov is Germany’s Thomas Greiss, while Niemi is backed up by France’s Cristobal Huet. With the USA’s Brian Boucher having suffered a sprained knee, the Philadelphia Flyers are starting Canada’s Michael Leighton, with Sweden’s Johan Backlund serving as the backup.
Overall, it is less a signal that Canada’s quality of netminding has dropped off than that the rest of the world is steadily catching up, year by year.
Much like US basketball, the world is catching up to Canada on the ice but that closing gap is most evident between the pipes.
(H/T to Kukla’s Korner)
- Kings’ Dustin Brown: ‘We got our [expletives] kicked’ 0
- Feeding frenzy: Sharks devour Kings to take 2-0 series lead 16
- Canadiens push Lightning to brink of elimination with 3-2 win 22
- WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks (Game 2) 0
- Bruins handle Red Wings 4-1, tie series 1-1 37
- Flyers overcome two-goal deficit to finally win at MSG 59
- NHL suspends Seabrook three games for charging into Backes 90
- MacKinnon, Avs shine against Wild, take 2-0 series lead 25
- Video: Roenick says MacKinnon is more dominant at 18 than Crosby was 28
- Blue Jackets gain first-ever playoff win, tie series with Penguins 1-1 49
- Video: Seabrook ejected for charging Backes; will face hearing (update) (148)
- Video: Lucic spears DeKeyser from behind (116)
- Flyers want to ‘punish’ McDonagh (113)
- Bad luck strikes twice: Lightning goal waved off, Stamkos takes knee to head (99)
- That’s a raise: Flyers sign MacDonald to six-year, $30 million extension (91)