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Colorado Avalanche Patrick Roy keeps his eyes on the puck as he makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens during first period NHL action in Montreal Tuesday Nov. 6, 2001. (RYAN REMIORZ/Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
Colorado Avalanche Patrick Roy keeps his eyes on the puck as he makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens during first period NHL action in Montreal Tuesday Nov. 6, 2001. (RYAN REMIORZ/Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)


Goaltenders often have superstitious minds Add to ...

"You watch Game 7 and they are doing everything they can to protect him," Phoenix Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke says. "That was not a team that was real confident in their goaltender. But he's a well-liked guy, a guy the team cares about. So they played the type of game where they're trying to protect him and teams will do that for certain goalies."

Thomas is popular in Boston, too, and Roloson has quickly become a favourite in Tampa.

The oldest active goalie remaining in the playoffs at 41, Roloson is as close to superstition-free as a goalie can be. Roloson once noted sometimes superstitions can control you, if you develop too many.

"I've never really gotten into that stuff," he says. "I've played with some guys that had all these superstitions, but for me, it's not my cup of tea. When things change, I don't want to be all goofed up and not be able to play. I just like to focus on what I have to do."

When Blackburn first arrived in the NHL, he lived for a season with John Davidson, a former Rangers goaltender who was then a broadcaster for MSG Network.

"It's an interesting concept, superstition, because a lot of times, what it can do is keep you completely focused," says Davidson, now the president of the St. Louis Blues. "My superstitions revolved around driving to [Madison Square]Garden from Westchester County, which on a good day, took an hour. If things were going well, I'd tried to drive in the same lane, or go through the same toll booth. Sometimes, it would take an extra 10 minutes - but if it was going well, it was certainly worth it."

Superstition is hardly limited to goaltenders.

"When Darius Kasparaitis throws a cup before Game 7 in Pittsburgh and it lands straight up, the whole dressing room goes, 'That's karma - don't touch the cup,'" Healy says.

Still, it may be goaltenders more than most observe habit religiously. Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden had to stop the puck one last time before leaving the crease during the warm-up. Luongo once explained he programmed his game days: chicken and pasta, a nap, shower, head to the rink.

Likewise, "everything I did was the same," Healy says. "Leaving for the rink at the same time, listening to the same songs on the way, eat the same meal, the same [leg]pad on first, where did it end? From the minute my feet hit the ground until the last buzzer, I did everything the same way. And then, if you found something that worked, you weren't changing it - ever."

The pressure on goaltenders is arguably greater than on anyone else in the playoffs, because mistakes are magnified tenfold. Much like managing stress in the workplace, "being successful is about managing your thoughts and feelings and the ability to relax after being scored on," Paskevich says.

Fleury and Niemi both rebounded for subpar performances in the middle of the 2011 opening round and were strong in their series finales. Fleury surrendered just the one goal, while the Sharks stuck with Niemi and he responded by battening down the hatches against the Los Angeles Kings on the road.

"If you're a forward that's struggling, you go out there and hit somebody or maybe drop the gloves," Burke says. "There are other ways that you can contribute. As a goaltender, it's the one position where you really are more of an individual, so you have to have your confidence. The minute that slips, there really isn't anybody to help you."

Davidson has a counter-intuitive theory about playoff pressure that Dryden believes as well: That playoffs are actually easier on a goaltenders' psyche, not harder.

"To me, there is no such thing as playoff pressure," Davidson says. "It was easier playing in the playoffs - because everybody does everything for you. It doesn't matter if you have kids, or grocery shopping, or banking, everything is done for you, all you have to do is play.

"Every once in a while, in January, you may get a little tired, or you've got to get yourself ready to play. In the playoffs, it's all natural. It just happens."

To Paskevich, success begins at that juncture - when it is all natural, when it all just happens.

"There are ritualistic routines, like forwards putting on the right shin guard before every game," he says. "The difficulty comes when you go from something functional to something dysfunctional. If the superstitions control the athlete, that's the dysfunction."


With reports from Allan Maki and Matthew Sekeres

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