35 GP, .908 SV%, 2.97 GAA, .910 SV% at evens, .865 SV% on the kill
Way back in August, I wrote the preview on Forsberg and mused that he seemed like a quadruple-A player, and that if he didn’t take things up a notch we’d be wondering why that preview wasn’t about J.F. Berube. First of all, that was the closest thing to an accurate prediction I made all season, and second, we sadly found out that Berube didn’t deserve the preview either. But we’ll get to the rest of the cast of jamokes-in-net later; for now, let’s focus on Forsberg.
I have frequently expressed that Forsberg seems truly unlucky—the unluckiest man in the NHL at times, and in this league that’s saying quite a lot. But the truth is that it wasn’t all bad luck, plain and simple. At some point you have to overcome bad bounces and defensive breakdowns and make some big saves—it’s a goalie league, after all. And at too many points in time Forsberg showed he wasn’t really capable of doing that. That .908 SV% overall? Not going to get it done. His save percentage on the PK? Downright shitty. When you give up three goals on 13 shots to the Coyotes (back in mid-February before they went on a hot streak, which, actually, BEGAN with that game), that says something.
Now, for some of the caveats: the defense. There’s no getting around the fact that a shitty defense puts undue pressure on a goalie, which is why Crawford’s numbers and achievements are all the more impressive. Remember the Rutta-Forsling combo that just never seemed to die? The on-ice save percentage when they were out there was .899, and if you can believe it, we somehow survived 406 minutes of watching that combo this season. And then there was Nachos and his inability to move his churro-laden ass, and there was Jordan Oesterle, and a slower Duncan Keith…you know the story by now. So while Forsberg most certainly deserves responsibility/opprobrium for his numbers, they alone don’t tell the whole story.
Also, coaching and personnel choices have to be considered. If you were kinda nervous at a new job and hoping to overcome jitters, and then after a few mistakes you got replaced with an inexperienced nobody who was practically a generation older than you, where would your confidence be at? Even for stiffs like me with desk jobs, that would be sad. For a young athlete with the opportunity of a lifetime to become the starting goalie for a Cup contender, I imagine it would be devastating. Again, at the end of the day it’s on Forsberg to perform, but Q’s short leash and the mental ramifications can’t be ignored.
Where Do We Go From Here: The answer to this question really lies with Crawford, and as Sam’s review discussed yesterday, that’s all smoke and mirrors right now and probably will remain so for at least a decent chunk of the summer (wtf is that? This hellscape tundra will never end).
If Crow is healthy and comes back to start the season, then Forsberg deserves a chance as the back-up again. He was serviceable, even solid in net at times. His positioning and rebound control was definitely better than Feel-Good Story Jeff Gl-Ass, and at least as good as Berube’s. With some confidence and even a slightly better blue line in front of him, he could probably be perfectly acceptable for 20-ish games.
If Crawford doesn’t come back at the start of the season, then Forsberg may be able to stay as the back-up but shouldn’t be the No. 1 guy. Whoever the Hawks would go after (Bernier? Grubauer?) would also be a factor: would it be a guy who expects to step into the starting role? Or would it be someone more on the cusp, who would have to earn the starter’s spot over Forsberg? Again, Crawford’s expected return time and condition will impact all of those answers, not to mention how the cap figures into all this. The Hawks should have some money to play with, but as we’ll see with the rest of these reviews, they also have a lot of questions to answer.
And if none of it went down that way and Forsberg was traded, that would be OK too. Berube could be the back-up if they landed someone better, and that same scenario works if Crow is back at 100%. It’s disappointing, no doubt about it; I really had hoped this would have been Forsberg’s year, my frent. But in the end, we’re back at quadruple-A. Sometimes I actually don’t like being right.