Moog, Fuhr mature as goalies

(By Dave Kaplan, Associated Press, December 26, 1984)

Their professional careers were once a mirror image of their National Hockey League team, the Edmonton Oilers - young, talented, immature and spoiled.

Buf Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog, the splendid goaltending duo of the Stanley Cup champions, have matured a lot in the past two years. And each has fully blossomed in the 1984-85 season, having the best seasons of their brief NHL careers.

"Right now, they're the best two goalies in the NHL," said John Muckler, the Oilers' assistant coach.

That may draw some arguments in Philadelphia, where the tandem of Pelle Lindbergh and Bob Froese own the league's best goals-against average and are a major reason for the Flyers' resurgence.

But consider this:

Emphasis on speed

With the Oilers, who put great emphasis on speed, zest and offensive skill, Fuhr and Moog don't always get the defensive aid that most teams afford their goaltenders. That fact makes Fuhr's 3.36 and Moog's 2.63 goals-against averages this season even more remarkable.

"You could see the improvement in Grant and Andy last Janaury," Muckler said. "They'd face 45 to 50 shots a game, making 10 to 15 tough saves.

"But because we'd win by 7-6, they would go unnoticed."

Fuhr, 22, and Moog, 24, are equally regarded as No. 1. The Oilers rotate them in goal each game. But whoever gets hot at the end of the 80-game schedule will be the one in net during the playoffs.

Few goalies in NHL history have made splashier debuts than Fuhr and Moog. And few have sunk to the depths of immaturity so suddenly, either.

Moog's introduction to pressure was memorable.

He was a fresh-faced innocent of 21 when coach Glen Sather asked him to play in the first game of the 1981 Stanley Cup playoffs, against Montreal Canadiens in the Forum.

But Moog, a veteran of exactly seven NHL Games, was completely unawed. He stopped the Canadiens, leading Edmonton, a 14th-place team during the regular season, to a stunning three-game sweep. And then he distinguished himself in a six-game quarterfinal series against the eventual Cup-winning New York Islanders.

When training camp opened for the following season, Moog felt invincible.

"I never thought things would come so easy," recalled Moog. "The series with Montreal was over before I knew what happened. Three games in four nights.

"But the next season I didn't have the proper attitude."

Muckler was appalled when he saw Moog, who came to the Oilers' 1982 camp 10 to 15 pounds overweight. The goaltender spent a roller-coaster season with the Oilers and Wichita of the Central Hockey League.

"Andy wasn't a mature person," Muckler said. "At that time, he wasn't a team player, either.

"In Wichita, we used to have practices and he felt the practices revolved around the goaltender, not the team per se. You couldn't convince him he was overweight; it was very obvious to everybody but himself."

There's been a dramatic change. Now a well-conditioned 5-foot-9, 170-pounder, Moog also no longer is a scrambler in the goal crease. Like Fuhr, he has picked up tips by studying other NHL goalies.

Virtually unbeatable

Fuhr's rookie season in the NHL often was compared with pitcher Fernando Valenzuela's in baseball. Both were 19 and virtually unbeatable. But Fuhr, who compiled a 23-game unbeaten streak in 1981-82, was horrible in his sophomore season.

He injured his shoulder, and was the target of management's wrath when he neglected to rehabilitate it.

"Grant never did catch up physically or mentally the next season," Muckler recalled.

In a 1983 home game against Detroit Red Wings, Fuhr performed miserably and fans booed him loudly. A normally placid, easy-going individual, Fuhr blasted the fans as "stupid", but that only put more pressure on him.

Now, says Muckler, Fuhr realizes the importance of conditioning.

"Grant's grown up. He had self-doubts when his shoulder hurt. But you saw what happened last season when he got in shape."

Fuhr led the NHL with 30 victories, and was a leading candidate for Most Valuable Player honors in the playoffs until an injury sidelined him for the final two games.

(Taken from the Toronto Star, December 26, 1984. Reprinted without permission. Feel free to link to this page as much as you'd like, but please don't reprint this elsewhere.)

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