Hockey Fan Forums banner
1 - 1 of 1 Posts

· Registered
25,516 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Larry Wigge | columnist
Feb 10, 2007, 9:14 AM EST

Challenges. They don’t get any better than facing the Detroit Red Wings eight times in one season, do they?

Back in early August, when the St. Louis Blues signed free-agent goaltender Manny Legace away from the Red Wings after posting a 37-8-3 record with a 2.19 goals-against average and seven shutouts -- including a 23-4-3 record after the New Year -- Legace joked that he had already circled all eight of the scheduled games against his old teammates.


"No, just curious," Legace said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "It’s a challenge every time you face a team like Detroit. How can you not get up for a game against them?"

Then, he added, with a hearty laugh, "Kirk Maltby already warned me, ‘If you leave the net ... I’m going to run you.’ "

In recent years, the Blues have taken it on the chin far too often from the Red Wings (they were 1-7 against Detroit last season and have gone 2-15-1-1 in the last four seasons).

But that was before Legace arrived and posted his third win over the Red Wings, 1-0, Feb. 8.

But the laugh, the clever little retort you usually get from Manny was missing after he helped the Blues post their second-straight shutout and the team’s fifth in 18 games. And that was because crease-crasher Tomas Holmstrom, not Maltby, ran over Legace, with a little help from Blues defenseman Bryce Salvador. Manny was knocked loopy. After staying in the game for one more shift, Legace took himself out.

"My helmet went flying and my neck got really sore," Legace said. "It was a little blurry, I couldn't read the boards very well. Worst of all, the puck seemed like it had a tail on it. Under those conditions, I felt I would be a split-second slow in reacting -- and you can’t even think about not being at your best when you play the Red Wings."

For most of his life, Legace has had to live with the critics who said he looked more like Spanky from the Little Rascals and that a chubby 5-foot-9, 162-pound goaltender could never really be considered an athlete.

Legace remembers the seven long years he spent in the minors, the twists and turns of a career that seemingly was on an endless road to nowhere. Even after he finally got off the goaltending roller coaster and had a chance at the big show with the Los Angeles Kings in 1998-99, he heard those dreaded words from a member of the Kings' management group.

"I'll never forget what that guy said to me," Legace remembered. "Point blank, he said, 'You're too small and out of shape, you'll never make it in the NHL.' It was the finality in which he said it that made me want to prove him wrong."

No one’s going to say that to Legace any more.

"I checked with one of Manny’s former coaches and he told me he never had any qualms about starting him in goal in a crucial game," Blues President John Davidson said. "When I look at Manny, I see one really good habit: He wins."

Last season, Legace and Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, who was voted the best goaltender in the NHL, were the only NHL goalies to finish in the top 10 in victories, goals against, save percentage and shutouts.

Since Dec. 19, Manny has posted a 14-4-2 record, .928 save percentage and 2.01 GAA. In that stretch, he allowed two goals-or-less in 14 of the 20 games. That follows a 5-9-3 start.

"He's always been game-ready," Red Wings center Kris Draper told me. "When he was called upon, it didn't matter what the goaltending rotation had been, he just went out there and won games for us. You get comfortable knowing that you have someone back there in the nets who can save you if you hang him out there to dry. We've gotten comfortable with big names like Mike Vernon, Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph. But no matter what the situation, when Manny went in there, we knew he was going to give us everything he had."

Manny proved to himself that he could be successful as a No. 1 goalie with those 37 wins last season. Now, he wants to take his performance to the next level: Success in the playoffs, a Stanley Cup ... and he hopes to do it for the Blues.

"You can never lose that hunger, that drive," he said. "I know my critics said I put up those numbers last year because of the team I was playing on. I guess some things never seem to change. I’ve got to go out there and grind it out again.

"I want to show the hockey world what I can do."

When you have a goalie with something to prove, style points don’t matter. Stopping the puck does.

And nothing is sweeter than a win ... except a win over the Red Wings, right Manny?

Who’s hot --

1 - 1 of 1 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.