Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Plight of Pitton

Bryan Pitton (left) and Glenn Fisher
after the 16-round shoot-out on 1/30/10.
Photo taken by Becky Welsh and used with permission.



At this point of the preseason, goalie Bryan Pitton is still with one of Stockton Thunder's AHL affiliates, the Oklahoma City Barons. I don't like to make predictions about where certain players will end up in the hockey food chain, but I wouldn't be surprised either way if he were to remain up with the Barons or sent back down to play again with the Thunder.

I cringe when I see via my Twitter feed the negative reactions of Barons fans when learning Pitton will be starting in net, even in these preseason games and scrimmages. It's the same unfortunate reaction Thunder fans had in his rookie year (2008-09) when he had a 9-19-3 record backing up goalie Andrew Perugini who was 21-13-2 that year.

One thing I don't like to see when Pitton has been in net for the Thunder is him leaning against the top of the net with both elbows. I don't care if play happens to be at the other end of the ice, this pose makes him appear uninterested and apathetic (whether that's the case or not). A goalie needs to always be alert no matter how far away he thinks the play or puck is. Freaky things can happen to a goalie in a game. Pucks being cleared during the other team's penalty kill might end up in net, your own player may accidentally hit it in their own goal (cough-cough Dan Boyle), etc. How can Pitton be in his "ready" mode when he's leaning on the net like that?

Another thing about Pitton, which is regrettably not unique to him as a goalie, is that he leaves the net to play the puck at unfavorable times. Not every goalie can play a 3rd defenseman like the Blackhawks' goalie Marty Turco. Fortunately not all of Pitton's misplaying the puck results in the other team's scoring. But when I'm watching the Thunder and the all the people around me groan, hold their breath, or yell at Pitton to "get back in the net", I wonder if someone can work with him more closely about when the right and wrong time is to leave the crease.

I want to take a closer look at Bryan Pitton's goalie career with the Stockton Thunder, because not all of it is negative. In fact, he's had some incredible games and made Thunder history a few times.

  • Statistics for his rookie year with the Thunder in '08-'09 in 34 games played: 3.39 GAA, 9-19-3 win/loss record, .886 save percentage

  • Statistics for the Thunder in his '09-'10 year: 22 games played, 2.85 GAA, 9-9-3 win/loss record, .921 save percentage

  • He had a 2-6-0 record in 8 games played for the AHL's Springfield Falcons when he was recalled last season

  • Pitton was recalled to the Thunder's NHL affiliate, Edmonton Oilers, three times last season

  • The first shut-out of his career was on 1/30/10 versus the Victoria Salmon Kings in a goalie battle with Glenn Fisher. The game was tied at 0 through regulation and sudden death overtime. The Salmon Kings ended up winning in the shoot-out, but it ended up being a 16-round shoot-out (the longest in Stockton Thunder history)

  • Pitton was a two time recipient of the Reebok Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week recognition. He was awarded on 12/29/09 and 2/2/10

  • The most memorable game thus far in Stockton Thunder history took place 5/5/10. It was Game 3 of the National Conference Finals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs versus the Idaho Steelheads. Pitton was paired against Steelheads goalie Richard Bachman. The game ended up going 0-0 into triple overtime. 36 seconds into the third overtime, defenseman Ryan Constant finally ended the longest playoff game in Thunder history by getting the puck past Bachman. It was a tearjerker win for sure.

When Pitton's confidence level is up is when he plays the best. Each time he returned to Stockton after being recalled by the Oilers, there was a noticeable positive difference with the way he played. A good goalie needs to learn how to play through adversity too, though. Bryan Pitton is still a young guy who has some time to develop into a stronger, more consistent goalie. I'm sure Thunder fans will welcome him with open arms should he be sent back to Stockton. And if the Barons decide to keep him, I hope the fans there will be just as supportive. After all, player development is one of the main roles of being an NHL "farm" team.

2 comments:

  1. "I cringe when I see via my Twitter feed the negative reactions of Barons fans when learning Pitton will be starting in net, even in these preseason games and scrimmages."

    Like me last night, for example?

    :P

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just so I'm clear, the concern with Bryan is that he leans on his net and wanders from the crease? Don't you think Bryan's been around enough coaches to address the leaning, or the wandering if it were an issue? Perhaps these aren't issues that the coaching staff are concerned with. It sounds like it's just fans focusing on these behaviors because they don't know enough about the position to really know what's happening. He's got good size & mobility and his positioning is pretty good, but what fans should be concerned with is his glove hand, and his rebound control. Those are the two problem areas that need work. Don't focus so much on the leaning. It'll only make you more frustrated.

    ReplyDelete

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