Loose Change: Big Finnish

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

You’re Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson and you’re coaching perhaps the least-talented team in the NHL. You’re faced with the dilemma of another shootout and the very real prospect of another shootout loss simply because your goalie and shootouts get along as well as drunk guys and chainsaws.

So you decide to do something revolutionary by putting in 83-year-old backup goaltender Curtis Joseph, who’s been spending the last 65 minutes dividing his time between trying to stay awake and loading up on Twizzlers. Some consider it to be bold; some think it’s gutsy; Stephen Hawking called the move “bat%&$# crazy.”

Of course spare netminder Joseph is a grizzled veteran who’s seen his share of tough situations. He knows what it takes to win the big games. He’s been in the trenches, faced with the prospect of the next big goal being the team’s undoing. Ron Wilson and the Leafs will either live by the sword or…

Oh, it’s over? Ron, you just lost. Two Duck shooters, two goals. Not to say Curtis looked bad on the pair of shots, but Stevie Wonder has scored higher in Olympic archery trials.

Seems Wilson was simply playing the percentages. Vesa Toskala is two for 11 in shootouts, which is actually the lowest winning percentage of any goalie (minimum 10 shootouts) in the brief history of this spectacle/debacle. It was a choice of either Toskala - which would mean likely losing, yet again - or replacing him with something that stood a slightly better chance, be it Curtis Joseph, a soggy piece of plywood or, as it turned out, a combination of both.

But perhaps Wilson knows more than he’s letting on. Perhaps his decision wasn’t based on a simple hunch at all. Since the NHL began keeping statistics on this type of thing there have been some startling - what hack writers would like to turn into inflammatory, Scandiphobic, and racially-charged rhetoric - statistics.

For example:

Not only is Toskala especially pathetic in this little endeavor, but other Finnish goaltenders are equally as kauhea, as the Finns call it (pronunciation note: the R and the B are silent).

Columbus’s Fredrik Norrena has the eighth-worst winning percentage (minimum 10 shootouts) of all-time, while Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff holds the current record for longest shootout losing streak at eight.

Take that Nokia. Take that pickled herring.

Finnish goaltenders on the whole are the ninth-worst performers in NHL history at 39.3 percent (only South Africa and Slovakia are worse, which is kind of like beating your grandmother at arm wrestling).

Conversely though, Finnish shooters have the highest success rate of any nationality in the NHL at an almost astounding 42.7 percent.

Which only leads us to the two logical and inescapable conclusions:

(1) If you have a Finn in net for you in the showdown – egad – you’re finished, but

(2) If you have a Finn doing the shooting, no worries, he’s a good finisher.

Either way you’re in for a big, er, ending.

The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?

Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.

Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at charlieteljeur@hotmail.com


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