GoalieGate: So where do Florida Panthers stand heading into Thursday?
Ellis to Start Thursday vs Dallas
The Panthers have been a hot topic since inadvertently highlighting an aspect of NHL rules on Tuesday evening which seemingly weren't very black and white: that of who can and who cannot play in the absence of a healthy netminder during a game. While this is likely to be clarified at the next General Manager meetings, the damage was done for Florida in a 3-2 regulation loss at home to Toronto (a team which had yet to win on the road in calendar year 2015).
While we fans remain in a holding pattern regarding the dual fates of Roberto Luongo (undergoing further testing on a shot taken near the throat as best I could see on the Mighty 46-incher) and backup Al Montoya (the word "weeks" is being bandied about in several areas but by no means official as yet), veteran Dan Ellis has been recalled along with Florida goaltending prospect Sam Brittain, currently 5th in the line of succession behind Lu, Monty, Ellis and Michael Houser.
Ellis has already been announced as the starter in Thursday's game when the Panthers host the Dallas Stars, a club undoubtedly holding a grudge toward Florida after that little Tyler Seguin dustup of a few weeks back. Who will be in the backup role? As of late Wednesday night, odds are on Brittain. Not many options remain, since Florida management isn't about to remove Houser from the San Antonio mix with a playoff run in full effect.
Back to the "who can play and who can't" issue during an emergency in net such as we saw Tuesday: there were many facts, many theories, and even more assumptions flying along the byways of the internet throughout the afternoon. Confusion was the order of the day, understandably. As it stands now, TSN's Kerry Fraser - a longtime NHL referee turned columnist - seems to have a solid handle on the situation:
During the playoffs teams almost always have a third eligible goalkeeper in the building and available for emergency recall. Last night the Florida Panthers did not have a third eligible (contracted) goalkeeper in the arena. If Luongo and Montoya were unable to continue due to injury then only two options were available to Coach Gerard Gallant as per rule 5.3. He could select a player (skater) listed on the game playing roster. After some discussion Gallant sent Derek MacKenzie to the dressing room to strap on the pads. MacKenzie however returned to the bench in his regular gear as Montoya gutted it out and played hurt.
The second and best option was executed by general manager Dale Tallon when he signed former NHL goalie and current Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas to an emergency player contract, making him eligible to play. Tallas last appeared in an NHL game on February 19, 2001 in a loss to the NY Rangers. Tallas made 31 saves in the 35 shots he faced in that game.
The ink on the contract was barely dry when Tallas appeared in the tunnel, all suited up with 15:07 remaining in regulation time. Tallas took a seat beside the bench and became a backup insurance policy as the Leafs scored on injured Montoya to take a 3-2 lead.
Then with 9:08 remaining and the Panthers going on the power-play Roberto Luongo resurfaced in his goalie equipment, walked past Tallas and took over the duties between the pipes from a very courageous performance by Montoya. The Panthers pressed hard but came up short in their quest to grab a badly needed point in their playoff race for the final spot. Al Montoya gets my vote as the first star of the game!
The entire article is a must-read, as it covers just about all of the technical bases. Of course, the story goes further, and the Miami Herald's George Richards chimed in with this stunner:
Luongo exited the game after the period and left the arena to get a CT scan at Cleveland Clinic in Weston. When he heard backup Al Montoya got injured trying to make a save early in the third, Luongo raced back to BB&T Center and eventually returned to the game with nine minutes left.
Fully dressed, I'll add in humble fashion.
Welcome to South Florida, Avengers of Seguin.