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Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
5:20 PM ET, 5/16/06

Changing of the guard

Posted by Tom Layberger
For the past decade or so, we could count on Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek to be among the goalies who led their teams deep into the playoffs. There was also a very good chance one would emerge with a Stanley Cup. After all, there was a recent stretch in which those four led teams to seven of nine titles.

However, there has been a changing of the guard between the pipes this spring. Boy, has there been a change!

With Hasek on the shelf and Chris Osgood on Detroit's bench, Brodeur was the only goalie participating in these playoffs who had backstopped his team to a Cup. Now, we may have rookie goalies square off against one another in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since Montreal's Roy and Calgary's Mike Vernon saw one another at opposite ends in 1986.

Buffalo's Ryan Miller, Carolina's Cam Ward and Anaheim's Ilya Bryzgalov are rookies and still very much alive. What's intriguing is that Ward and Bryzgalov were not their team's top goalies when the season began and neither started the playoffs. Martin Gerber of the Hurricanes and the Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere were No. 1 coming out of camp and got the nod when the puck dropped on the postseason.

That brings me to another point: Though Arturs Irbe and Kevin Weekes made it work for Carolina on the way to the finals in 2002, not many teams have switched goalies during the playoffs, let alone summoned a rookie, and prospered. Again, this is a spring that truly stands apart. Even San Jose's Vesa Toskala is a playoff rookie and he too was not a starter when the season began; Evgeni Nabokov headed the depth chart in goal for the Sharks.

Speaking of Nabokov, the way this spring has unfolded, is there any surprise that his 18 career playoff wins are tops among the remaining goalies . . . and he’s not even playing?

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