Needless to say, the three is the most in the NHL (the Anaheim Ducks have two in John Gibson and Igor Bobkov). It is also a sign of Montreal’s strength in between the pipes currently and perhaps for years to come.
Fucale has his share of detractors and his regular-season performance this year hasn’t exactly done him any favors. His .890 save percentage and 3.20 goals-against average with the Halifax Mooseheads (having since been traded to the Quebec Remparts while away for the tournament) are less than stellar to say the least.
His performance in last year’s tournament had its ups and downs too. He may have earned the starting job last year over Jake Paterson. However, he also was in nets for two straight medal-round losses, the first of which being the 5-1 embarrassment against Finland in the semi-final.
Even his performance in this year’s tournament was far from perfect, in reference to the gold-medal game itself, when he gave up three goals in the second period in just over three minutes to almost completely erase a 5-1 Canada lead.
Nevertheless, as Fucale proved at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and at the 2013 Memorial Cup, he’s more than capable of winning. He proved it again in the third period of last night’s game, making 11 saves—many of them of the cool, calm variety—to counterpart Ilya Sorokin’s mere four.
If nothing else, it’s something that no one can ever take away from him. More significantly, like for Tokarski and Price before him, it’s something he can build on and it could serve as the launching pad to a successful NHL career.
There are admittedly few guarantees in that regard. One need look only to Canada’s Justin Pogge in 2006 (better yet, look for Justin Pogge just to make sure he’s all right) and Jeff Glass in 2005 as proof. Is it that out of the question, though?
Can’t Spell Doubt Without “Do”
According to stats compiled by analyst Rhys Jessop last season, “goalies that have performed at the same level as (Fucale) have missed the NHL entirely 95% of the time.”
Keep in mind that Jessop was prompted to write that last season when Fucale was in the midst of posting better stats relative to this current one (.907 save percentage and 2.26 goals-against average).
As depressing as the resulting implication is, it also holds a fair bit of good news. Price suffered a similar statistical year-over-year downturn in his junior career, when he went from an incredible .920 save percentage and 2.34 GAA in 2004-05 with the Tri-City Americans to a mediocre .906 save percentage and 2.87 right after he was drafted in 2005-06.
That’s worse than Fucale’s performance last season (and Price turned out okay). Granted, Price had much higher career junior numbers and he never posted stats quite as bad as Fucale’s this season. However, Price has also never so much as played in a Memorial Cup (Tokarski has, for the record, winning one back in 2008). In fact, up until last season when Price won Olympic gold, most everyone was still questioning his ability to win at the NHL level (which, technically, he still has yet to do).
It all makes about as much sense as piling on a junior goaltender that has yet to make his NHL debut. That goes for the negative criticism and the positive, lofty expectations.
The point is Fucale can carve out his own path. He has found success at every level he’s played up to this point, including on the world stage multiple times. There’s little reason he won’t find a way to make it to the next one at the very least.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.