Trevor Kidd wins Goalie Battle with a little help from Roberto Luongo

By Mark Fischel
Today Terry Murray ended all the speculation about who would be starting in the nets on opening night. Both goalies are coming off years that could be considered their announcement for the rest of the league to stand up and take notice.

In Florida’s pipes last year, Trevor Kidd started out the season with a bang. Trevor was playing with all-star form, sometimes single-handedly keeping the Panthers in games. His numbers were also All-star numbers before he dislocated his shoulder on Dec. 13th. Kidd ranked first in the NHL in save percentage (.930) and was tied for fourth in goals-against (2.08) and wins (13). Trevor rehabbed his shoulder and came back by the end of the year, but was a shadow of his former self and struggled mightily.

In previous years with Carolina, Trevor got into zones where he did appear unbeatable for games on end, but the nagging question was there….how long would that last?

In the pre-season, Trevor looked very sharp and seemed to have no mental worries about his shoulder. He went 1-2 in the pre-season with 2.80 GAA, 11 GA and a 92.6 SP%, but the poor numbers can be attributed to playing with a pre-season roster of defenseman.

Roberto Luongo came to the Panthers in a much publicized off-season trade and promptly showed some skeptical fans the reason he is perhaps the most touted goalie prospect ever.

Roberto played in 4 games where he compiled a 3-0-1 record with 2 shutouts, 3 GA, and a 97.1 SP%. Many of those saves were of the nightly highlight variety, especially a point-blank outright robbery on a wide-open net shot by Sandis Ozolinsh.

Before the season started, both goalies were quoted in the press as believing the starting duties were rightfully theirs, and it was good to hear that they were going to push each other.

But as decision time neared, the competition took a twist, “In all sincerity, I think Trevor should have the starting job Friday,” Luongo said Monday. “He’s the veteran. I’m just stepping in.”

That decision by Roberto to openly defer the starting position to Trevor for the sake of not ruffling feathers is ultimately what might have given Terry the nod to Kidd. There is no doubt that Roberto is the future of this franchise, and there is no need for him to make it difficult, Roberto also commented “I didn’t come to win the job, and I don’t expect anything for now.”

This attitude is a far cry from his shock and disappointment over the way he feels the Islanders mistreated him last year. “I didn’t know what was going on,” Luongo said. “Next thing in the paper, (General Manager) Mike Milbury was saying bad things about me. I don’t think any (goalie) should be left in a game when there’s nine goals, especially a young goalie. You don’t want to hurt his confidence.

He continues, “I felt they weren’t looking out for my best interests, and I had trouble bouncing back after those two games. My confidence was a little down, I worked hard at practice to get my confidence back, but it never went back to the same level it was at the beginning of the season.”

On his trade in the off-season, “It was a big surprise. They were saying all along I was the goalie of the future, then out of the blue, they trade me away?”

Putting things behind him, it appears that Roberto has no question that his future will be in Florida, and he is confident enough in himself to openly come out and say that he feels Trevor should be the starting goalie.

Terry confirmed that today, and Trevor Kidd will be the Panthers starting goalie. “This is not really a quarterback kind of decision where you have a starter,” Murray said. “We’re looking at two goaltenders that we’re going to need to play a lot and play well together. Both will play hard for the team. With 82 games, both guys are going to be depended on to play well.”

When most teams are having trouble icing one quality goaltender, the Panthers have an amazing luxury in having two solid goalies with bright futures ahead of them. A very pleasant but rough decision will have to be faced in the next few months and year on what direction this goaltending dilemma will head.

But present day, a classy move by a rookie goaltender made a very hard decision for Terry Murray a much easier one.

*quotes are from the Sun-Sentinel*

As always, any comments or questions are appreciated.