- Scott Burnside, NHL
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Pressure has taken up a permanent residence between the Flyer pipes as it relates to Mr. Humungous Big. What a season it's been for the enigmatic netminder, who signed a whopper 9-year deal in the offseason and then endured a roller-coaster season that included a long period of mediocre play and self-recrimination, followed by a stretch of terrific play, followed by a troubling foot injury in the final days of the regular season. When he's good, he's been great. When he hasn't been good, he's been, well, pass the antacid to the Flyers fans.
Quick put up Vezina-worthy numbers for the resurgent Kings this season, but his playoff experience has been mostly forgettable with a 4-8 record and 3.32 GAA over the past two springs. He needs to show that he can play with the big boys when the chips are on the table. If he can, this could be a special spring in Tinseltown.
You wouldn't think there'd be much to prove for a guy coming off a Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup-winning season but this has been a bit of an odd campaign for Thomas, what with snubbing the Bruins' White House visit and then playing politics on Facebook, etc. Best way for Thomas to erase any nagging doubts about his focus is to play like he did last spring.
Lots of questions about whether this will be the swan song for the game's greatest goaltender. At age 39 (he'll turn 40 in May), Brodeur doesn't have many runs left, and the harsh truth is that he has not had a great playoff run since the last time the Devils won the Cup in '03, compiling a 16-26 record.
Do ya think? After crumbling like a two-week-old cookie in the Stanley Cup finals last spring, Luongo got off to a rocky start but righted the ship as the season went along. Still, he was recently jeered by hometown fans after a poor outing, and backup Cory Schneider has put up such impressive numbers that there are those who believe he, not Luongo, should be the Canucks' playoff starter. GM Mike Gillis announced that Luongo would be the team's Game 1 starter, but everyone expects Luongo's leash will be extremely short this spring.
11dScott Burnside and Craig Custance