VANCOUVER — Last season the Chicago Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup with a somewhat anonymous Antti Niemi between the pipes to defeat the pedestrian Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton combo for Philadelphia.
Numerous teams spent last summer solidifying their rosters but leaving the goaltending to guys with lesser pedigrees. That might change now that this year’s Stanley Cup Final competitors both boast Vezina Trophy finalists.
The Bruins’ Tim Thomas and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo will both be in the spotlight starting with tomorrow night’s Game 1 at the Rogers Arena.
“History shows both sides of that,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli at today’s media day. “Sometimes teams try to copy the Stanley Cup finalists the following year, subsequent years. We’ve seen teams before without star goaltenders win Cups. Tim is a terrific goaltender and he’s a clutch goaltender. He’s won championships before [in Finland].
“I wouldn’t call last year a fluke. I think you’ll probably see itagain at some point. You’re going to be more certain to have a proven goaltender. I think history will show that also.”
Chiarelli showed his philosophy on the matter when he rewarded Thomas with a five-year contract worth $5 million per season in the spring of 2009, just before Thomas won his first Vezina.
Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis showed he shares the same philosophy when he locked up Luongo with a 12-year deal worth a little more than $5 million per, starting this season.
“I still feel Roberto, no disrespect to Tim because he’s a great goaltender, but we felt that Roberto was the best goaltender in the league,” said Gillis. “There were some things that we needed to change. We made a commitment to him as our No. 1 goaltender for long-term because we felt that way. We watch him practice every day. We watch his work ethic. We watch his dedication to the game. We felt at the time and continue to feel that he’s the best goaltender in the league.
“I know how it started, but I don’t know how you win in this league without great goaltending. I don’t know how you get in the playoffs without great goaltending and I don’t know how you win.”
Luckily for the Bruins and Canucks, they don’t have to try to answer Gillis’ question.