How Good is Eddie Lack?

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Lack

Eddie Lack pitched a shutout against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Quick, everybody overreact!!!

Goaltending controversies are a way of life in Vancouver, especially when the backup is so loveable.

Even Eddie Lack’s mother is adorable:

Her name on Twitter is ‘Mamma Mia Lack” for crying out loud. How could you not love her? How could you not love her son?

And that’s what’s going on with some Canucks fans right now. They started this season ready for their boy, the charming Eddie Lack, to outplay that ‘drama queen’ Ryan Miller.

The only thing the #TeamLack movement is missing right now? Proof.

Last Year

I like Eddie Lack. I think he’s a good backup goalie and he might even be good enough to be a good starting goalie. The problem is, we have no proof.

Last year was a tale of two seasons for Lack. In 20 starts as a backup, he was superb. Backup Lack had a .925 SV%. Backup Lack had zero expectations and zero pressure. When he beat the mighty Blues on the road in the second game of a back-to-back outing in October, it was seen as a herculian effort. He made 22 saves on 24 shots that night.

But all of that changed in March when he was given the start against the Ottawa Senators in the Heritage Classic. That was the game that signaled that John Tortorella had chosen Lack as his new #1 goalie.

With the pressure and workload of being the new #1 goalie, Lack did not post the same kind of sparkling numbers. To be fair, the team in front of him was a tire fire. But as the #1 goalie, Lack had a .893 SV%.

Part of that was because head coach John Tortorella played Lack into the ground, refusing to give him a rest and play backup Jacob Markstrom. Lack’s body broke down and he played hurt, which surely affected his numbers.

Cizikas-Lack

Image: Canadian Press

But Lack’s issues started before his body broke down. In the first 10 games after becoming a starter, Lack was wildly inconsistent. He had a SV% above .941 on four occasions and a SV% below .900 on six occasions.

Lack was not good at the Heritage Classic. In his third game as the starter, he let in five goals on 17 shots against the Dallas Stars. In his fifth game as the starter, he let in six goals on 14 shots in the third period against the New York Islanders as the Canucks blew a 3-0 lead in possibly their most embarrassing game of the season.

These examples aren’t meant to prove that Eddie Lack isn’t a good goalie and can’t become a legitimate starting goalie. Lack was put in a tough spot last season and he showed glimpses that he could become a starting goalie in this league. Alex Auld showed similar signs a few years ago too. What I’m saying is that Lack was wildly inconsistent when given the mantle, so he still has something to prove. Stating that Eddie Lack is bonafide #1 goalie is to be making a statement on belief and speculation. It is not based on facts.

Facts

Miller_Vezina

Image: nhl.com

Ryan Miller is a starting goalie. We know this because he has been one for 10 years, won a Vezina Trophy and almost won an Olympic gold medal with a subpar team in front of him. We know this because he had a .918 SV% last year in 59 games. That’s a sample size.

Now, we also know what Miller isn’t. He isn’t the same goalie that he was five years ago. And that’s where the Lack supporters are holding onto.

Miller has a great wins/losses record right now, but his save percentage (.910 SV%) has been poor. But it’s only been 20 games. He has a better save percentage than Henrik Lundqvist, Kari Lehtonen and Mike Smith. He has a better save percentage than Eddie Lack too, by the way. Miller’s numbers are likely to get better and it’s way too early for him to lose his job based on what we have seen so far.

Everybody Calm Down

Eddie Lack has been put into very tough spots this year and he has been capable, though not spectacular. He has started six games, five of which were the second game of back-to-back nights. The teams he got to play? Tampa Bay (1st in the East), Colorado (11th in the West), Nashville (3rd in the West), Anaheim twice (1st in the West) and Pittsburgh (3rd in the East). Lack had a save percentage above .910% in just two of his six starts.

Lack was put into a similar situation last year at this point in the season. He started the same amount of games (6), all of which were the second half of back-to-back games. He got some cupcake games (Calgary once and Carolina twice). He also played Columbus, St Louis and Anaheim. He had very good numbers, posting a .930 SV%.

Has Lack been treated unfairly? Perhaps. Would he have done better with more cupcakes like games against the Edmonton Oilers? Absolutely. Would he have excelled if given the #1 job? We simply have no idea.

Show Me

I am in ‘show me’ mode with Lack right now. I think he could be utilized more often than he has and Ryan Miller is going to need some rest if he is expected to carry the mail in the playoffs. But any talk of a goaltending controversy is way too premature at this juncture.

Every game that Lack plays like the one against the Pittsburgh Penguins will help earn him more starts. He might even be able to grab the starting job too, but he has to prove it. Is that fair? Probably not, but that’s the way it goes when a team already has a bonafide #1 goalie.

Eddie Lack had better numbers than Roberto Luongo did last year before the Heritage Classic, but the decision to give Lack the #1 job by John Tortorella was clearly a foolish one. Making a similar decision too soon this year, with not enough proof, would be equally as foolish.

Feature Image: canucks.nhl.com

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
@robthehockeyguy

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