The St. Louis Blues have a long list of goaltenders that got undue abuse during their days in the city. Oddly, when viewed in historical context, those names tend to be some of the team’s best.
The St. Louis Blues goaltending situation was always one of seemingly constant rotation and looking for the next guy. The only franchise that may have had it worse, at least in recent history, is the Philadelphia Flyers.
Just as an example, the winningest goalie in Blues history is Mike Liut. He had 151 wins.
If that doesn’t seem like a ton, it isn’t. 151 wins is nothing to turn your nose up at, but guys like Jake Allen and Brian Elliott started knocking on the door of that number and they were some of the more controversial goaltenders in modern memory.
Interestingly enough, another name in that grouping that put up more wins than you might remember is Grant Fuhr. Fuhr. Fuhr played four seasons with the Blues, but really only two of those were full seasons.
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When I say full, I mean full. Fuhr set records for games played overall and consecutive games played as well.
In 1996-97, Fuhr played in 73 games, which is almost unheard of. If that is not impressive enough, the season prior to that, Fuhr played in 79 games. 76 of those 79 games were played consecutively.
That is basically insane. Just think about that and really soak in the numbers.
Dubnyk has his supporters, but many consider Price to be one of the best in the game. Now, compare that with Fuhr who played 10 more games consecutively than Price played in total.
Fuhr accomplished his feat at age 33. As a fan in their later 30’s, 33 doesn’t sound so bad at all, but fans at the time complained that Fuhr was too old. He shoved that all in their faces.
The real problem was not Fuhr, but the situation. Mike Keenan had shockingly traded Curtis Joseph for, basically, nothing.
Fuhr bore the brunt of that disappointment and his age was simply another reason to pile on. Another doubt about him was his stats.
Fuhr never put up mind-bogglingly good stats, but that was because of the teams he played on. Fuhr played on some pretty bad Toronto and Buffalo teams.
The teams he played on with Edmonton had little interest in defending. He regularly faced well over 1000 shots per season, even when playing as few as 40 games with the Oilers. However, Fuhr knew how to win.
He knew how to get that crucial save at the right time. The game might be 4-3, but the Blues or the Oilers would be the winner because he had that mentality to get that big save in the big games.
Like so many other goalies, Blues fans only focus on the numbers and how they don’t match up to what we expected. What so many fail to realize is Fuhr put up career bests in St. Louis.
Clearly that games played and consecutive games played is something that will never be matched. However, Fuhr’s .903 save percentage in 1995-96 was his career best. His 2.43 goals against in 1997-98 was a career best, though in 39 games. Even then, his 2.53 goals against the year prior was his best in a full season and all four years with the Blues were under 3.00, which is something he accomplished nowhere else.
On top of all that, I have beat this drum for almost 25 years and will continue to do so – the Blues probably get past the Detroit Red Wings in 1996 if Fuhr is in net. Even if you doubt Fuhr’s talents, as a left-handed goaltender, he would have made a glove save on Steve Yzerman‘s series-ending goal, instead of Jon Casey flailing his blocker up at the rising shot.
Unfortunately, we will never know. Thanks Nick Kypreos…
Fuhr’s tenure unfortunately coincided with Mike Keenan being in charge. Keenan was the one who brought Fuhr in, but the coach’s time in St. Louis was so tumultuous that it also may have prevented the team from accomplishing more.
Nevertheless, Fuhr was and is one of the Blues best in net. Maybe he was not as athletic as Cujo or quite as popular as Elliott or Jordan Binnington, but he was great.
Anytime you start to forget that, just imagine playing one of sports most difficult and scrutinized positions for 76 games in a row.