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I’m not sure how to really tackle the goalie situation because there are seven (7) to talk about. Perhaps I'll speak of them by tandem…or however I feel like it. But let’s first review the goalies that have guarded our poor pipes this season.
For how much talk there is about how we need goaltending, we sure have a LOT of netminders to choose from. That being said, I don’t want to bag on any of the goalies that have been given time in LA this season because being a goalie is a thankless job sometimes. That is something that I'll fully acknowledge. Let's do a quick review of the netminders this season before I go in depth. Jason LaBarbera was the #1 for much of the season and as a goalie and a person he's totally chill. I honestly did feet bad when J.S. Aubin was placed on waivers and sent down to the AHL, but the numbers spoke for themselves; he was also the subject of the first ever trade between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, which produced quite a few laughs from yours truly. Jonathan Quick had some face time mid-season as did Jonathan Bernier at the beginning of the season. The two goalies dressed at the end of the season were Erik Ersberg and Dan Cloutier, the former being a relative unknown while the latter is well-known to Kings nation. Management had shown some faith with bring Clouts and his beach balls back to LA for another go. During the last couple of games, Clouts was temporarily sidelined and Daniel Taylor was recalled to be the bench warmer. Ersberg had been quite impressive, but I am annoyed that Kings fans have voted that they want Ersberg as the starting goalie for next year according to a poll done by lakings.com before the season even ended. Have they forgotten about Barbs? Have they so easily brushed aside his injured ribs and willingness to backstop a struggling defense?
I think doing this somewhat chronologically will be easier, but, as of this writing, Jonathan Bernier has just finished his short playoff run with the Manchester Monarchs against the Providence Bruins in the first round for the Calder Cup in the AHL. Even though he started the season in net for the Kings, I think I'll hold off on writing about him until I get to all the other goalies since he is the touted future and I have already (read: completely) bought in.
I'll start with Jason LaBarbera; the number one goalie for most of this season, and, on this site, is the resident snazzy dresser. He ended the season with 17 wins, 23 losses, 2 overtime losses,1 loss in the shootout, with a 3.00 GAA, and a .910 save percentage. Not terrible numbers when you consider who he was backstopping. (I don't mean to bag on my boys and be a jerk, but I can't help it. Maybe it won't be so bad if you think of it as more of me putting a mirror up to their season for them to see.) I felt like after Jonathan Bernier was sent back to Lewiston that maybe the Kings would be able to get their act together and help Barbs keep the puck out of their own net. They seemed to be doing well as October went along and somewhat into November. But that faithful day when the Kings played the Avalanche on December 1st proved to be the demise of the Kings' season. To keep a short story short, Ryan Smyth decided it'd be a good idea to spear Barbs in the third period. This put Barbs out for I can't even remember how long, which was beyond an unfortunate incident because it felt like this started the revolving door of goaltenders. But we're sticking with Barbs for the purposes of this post so let's continue.
I felt like Barbs was good but not particularly fantastic as Nabokov or Osgood was; but that's not to knock his effort this season. He did as well as he could considering how much the team in front of him was struggling with their own issues. This could be promising for next season if Barbs could stay healthy for all 82 games, which is hoping against hope because unless you're Nabby or Brodeur, you're gonna be sitting some games. This isn't necessarily too far of a stretch for Barbs either because if you look at the goaltenders in the first round of the playoffs, you see that there were some who were good in the regular season "but not fantastic," and when they hit the first round, they played lights out (excluding a one Martin Gerber; but you can't blame him in his situation. The Senators have been their own soap opera this season). So Barbs could feasibly come back next season and play to his potential, but this is contingent on how he's feeling when training camp rolls around. I'm only wary because of the double hernia surgery that ended his season prematurely.
Out of all of the goaltenders this season manning the pipes, I felt like Barbs was a picture of "Old Faithful." He took the Monarchs deep into the playoffs last season and was in LA making his case, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, especially when he played like a number one goalie. It was comforting to see his purple pads in net warming up the exact same way every time Jim Fox was telling the viewing audience his stats. Going back to December 1st; I never had a dislike for Ryan Smyth. I really didn't; the only thing that really stood out to me when I heard his name was that he cried a shit ton when he was traded to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline in 2007. But after his spearing of my goalie, I will forever see him as a jerk. I felt like after Barbs' recovery from this injury he wasn't the same in net. He didn't have that same sharpness and confidence about him and it made me nervous and unhappy.
In conclusion, hopefully Barbs can get back on the horse and man the pipes behind a more confident team next season. I'm not sure who will make a killer showing at training camp, but it will definitely be interesting.