Kevin Lalande finds himself a 21-year-old rookie backstopping the Las Vegas Wranglers in the 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. A fifth-round pick of Calgary in 2005, Lalande had a .932 save percentage and 2.05 GAA in the regular season (27 games), and has a .910 and 2.49 in the playoffs.
Lalande and the Wranglers are matched up against the Cincinnati Cyclones, and are tied 1-1 in the series. "He’s a good goaltender, and he’s going to be tough to beat," Cyclone Matt Macdonald said.
During the regular season, Lalande spent seven games with the AHL Quad City Flames this year, posting a .888 save percentage and 3.34 GAA. A native of Kingston, Ontario and trained in the French tradition, the 5’11 Lalande plays a butterfly style, but still has some work to do, particularly with his puckhandling.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Lalande in Cincinnati before Game 2 of the finals. He posted a shutout that night.
HF: Has it sunk in yet that you’re in the finals?
KL: I think so. I mean, we have a good hockey club and no one should be surprised that we’re here. We worked hard for it. This is a great opportunity for everyone and we’re going to take advantage of it.
HF: How do the Cyclones compare to the teams you had to beat to get here? Do they play a different style?
KL: They’re a skill team. They have guys who can finish. We have to respect that, but by the same token, if we play how we’ve played the whole playoffs, we’ll be just fine.
HF: I’ve read you’re a Canadiens fan, and here you are playing a Canadiens farm club. Does that give you maybe any extra motivation?
KL: (laughs) I never really thought of it that way, but it’s special. I grew up a Montreal fan. Just looking at the roster I noticed a lot of French guys. It didn’t really clue in until someone said they were affiliated with Montreal, so that’s pretty cool, but my priority is on Calgary right now.
HF: Your former team, Belleville, was in the Memorial Cup, were you able to follow them much?
KL: For sure, I kept up with guys I played with for three or four years. I was happy for them. It’s disappointing for myself that I didn’t get a chance to play in a Memorial Cup, but I was really happy for them, happy for Mike Murphy their goalie. He played exceptionally well this year – hats off to him and to the rest of the organization. I kept in touch with the guys and my parents were keeping track an updating me on how things were going. It’s disappointing that they didn’t come out on top but there’ll be another opportunity.
HF: You had a chance to go up to Quad City this year, how do you think that went for you?
KL: Well, the start of the year was a little bit rough, it was a big adjustment coming out of junior. I was put in situations, where maybe I wasn’t ready for at 100 percent, but playing at that level and practicing with the intensity that the American Hockey League requires, I picked up a lot from that. My second stint when I went back up in – I think it was late November/early December – I fared pretty well. Just being down here with the playoff run, I think it’s going to lead into great experience for an opportunity next year.
HF: Do you feel a lot more prepared for the fall already?
KL: I think so. Like it said it was a big adjustment going to Quad City right out of junior. There were some bad habits I needed to shake off, and some people don’t realize it but you’re so close to being with the big boys and I think that’s something that hadn’t sunk in yet. Now that you’ve got the "awes" out of the way, you’re more focused on your job.
HF: A lot of goalies don’t grow the playoff beard because it itches under their mask — you don’t have that problem?
KL: Ah, well, as a rookie I didn’t have much of a choice. I would have had a couple critiques to deal with if I had been shaving.
HF: But don’t goalies get extra leeway?
KL: No, well until last year in Belleville, I never made it past the first round, so obviously I never had a chance to grow a beard. Now that the opportunity has come, I’ll let it it grow, see what it looks like. Now I’m convinced that playoffs are the only time I’ll let it grow.
HF: Do you have a goalie coach you work with in the summer?
KL: Um, I’ve done a lot of work with the Flames goalie coach Dave Marcoux and Dominic Roussel, who’s an ex-NHL goalie, helped me a lot. I’ve worked with Francois Allaire, the goaltending consultant with the Anaheim Ducks. When you get to a certain level, it’s harder to get one on one attention with certain individuals because of their schedule and your own training schedule. When I go up to Calgary, it’s a good chance to work with Dave and when I get the opportunity I’ll tr to get a practice or two in with Dominic. It’s been hard (sighs). Goaltenders are still seen today as practice targets (laughs). You’ll have a forwards coach, a defense coach. Still, goalies are a big part of the puzzle and they don’t get that same attention sometimes. But I think it’s getting better and teams are realizing how much importance a goaltending coach can bring. Any extra work you can get done in the summer helps you out that much more. My summer’s obviously going to be a short one this year.
HF: What all do you do in the summer to train?
KL: In the summer I really focus on getting stronger and quicker. The season takes a toll on the body, practicing every day and playing 70, 80 games a year. I try to stay away from the ice, clear my head, focus, spend time with friends and family, so when you get in training camp in September, you’re rejuvinated and ready to go.
HF: Are you familiar with Dan Ellis?
KL: I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard his story a little bit. A goalie who’s been in the East Coast league, who took a stranglehold on a starting job in Nashville, so that kind of story inspires a goaltender like myself.
HF: Two years ago I talked to him at the Kelly Cup Finals — it all happens so fast.
KL: Yeah, it’s not like being a forward where you have to skip over 20 guys. On an NHL team there’s only two goalies, so if there’s one injury and one illness, you’re up there. It’s all about being at the right place at the right time. When you get that opportunity, you have to grab it with both hands and hand on tight.
HF: Game 1 was a bit chippy. It made me curious whether you’ve ever been in a goalie fight.
KL: (laughs) I have been. Last year. We were playing the Erie Otters and things got a little messy and it’s definitely something I would want to take back because I walked off the ice with three broken bones in my hand. I guess live and learn. I’ll leave the fighting to the tough guys.