The NHL Playoffs are in full swing at this point! At the time I’m writing this post, the Eastern and Western Conference Finals have both been incredible series’.With this in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to have a look at the four starting goaltenders left in these Playoffs, and have a look at the unique paths they took to get to where they are now. Here they are, in no particular order.
Brian Elliot- St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliot went undrafted in the OHL and instead played Junior A hockey in Ajax. After a solid season, Elliot was drafted 291st overall in 2003 by the Ottawa Senators. He was the 2nd last pick of the entire draft, taken in a round that no longer even exists. He chose to go to university, and served as the backup for his first two seasons before winning the starting position, and having two standout seasons for the University of Wisconsin. He was offered an AHL contract by the Binghamton Senators, and earned AHL All-Star honours. He eventually earned a shot with Ottawa, and made the most of his opportunity, earning a full time NHL job. He was traded to Colorado in 2011, where he struggled, and was not offered a contract. The following summer, he was signed by the St. Louis Blues. He hasn’t looked back, earning two NHL All-Star appearances and holding onto the starting position despite runs at the job from two solid goalies in Jaroslav Halak and Jake Allen.
Martin Jones – San Jose Sharks
Jones also went undrafted in the NHL after two seasons as a backup goalie for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He went to the Los Angeles Kings rookie camp as a free agent, and made the most of his opportunity, with the Kings signing Jones to a 3 year contract before sending him back to the Hitmen. Following his junior career, Jones spent most of his first 3 seasons in the AHL where he put up excellent numbers, finally earning a backup role before being traded to the Bruins and then, later that same day, to the Sharks. This season, he has led the Sharks to the Conference Finals, defeating his former team, the Kings, and a formidable Nashville Predators team along the way.
Ben Bishop- Tampa Bay Lightning
Despite being drafted in the 3rd round by the St. Louis Blues and being considered a top prospect, Ben Bishop struggled to develop in the first several years of his career. He ultimately earned the backup job in 2012 but was traded later that year to the Ottawa Senators. He was not in Ottawa for long, being traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline of that season. Since coming to the Bolts, Bishop has solidified himself as a premier goalie, leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
Matt Murray – Pittsburgh Penguins
Murray was taken in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. He quickly became one of the top goaltending prospects in the league, setting an AHL rookie record for shutouts (10) and a league record shutout streak of 304 minutes and 11 seconds. Since then he has excelled at the NHL level whenever he has had the opportunity. Starting the final 9 games of the season in place of an injured Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray has been a rock for the Penguins in the post season with a playoff GAA of 1.74 and a save percentage of .939. Fleury is now healthy, but the run Murray is on has given the Penguins no reason to make the switch in goal just yet.
The common theme amongst all of these goaltenders is that they’ve all gone through periods of adversity. Whether it was having periods of poor play, getting passed on by a team, or having someone with more experience ahead of them on the depth chart. The other thing that they have in common is perseverance. It would have been very easy to give up on their goals during these tough times, but instead of giving up, they chose to work harder. As a result, when the opportunity came to show what they could do, they were ready for it.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a roadblock is the end of the road. There will always be a way around it, or through it. Take adversity as a challenge and use it to inspire you to work harder than you ever have.
As you enjoy watching some awesome playoff hockey over the next few weeks, keep in mind that, just a few years ago, some of these goalies did not even have a team to play on. Now they’re each 8 wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
What can you do TODAY that will put you one step closer to your goal? What bit of adversity can you draw inspiration from to bring out the best in yourself? The season is only a few short months away. Take that inspiration, and make the next season the best you’ve ever had!