Steve Valiquette is wrapping up his third season as an MSG Network hockey analyst, getting generally favorable reviews for his studio work.
Valiquette does the preparation necessary — “I love the homework,” he said — but he believes a key to his success is the unique vantage-point he used to have as a career backup goaltender. He started 27 games in five NHL seasons with the Islanders, Oilers and (mostly) Rangers.
While the guy actually in net is stuck at one end of the rink and must have tunnel-vision to do his job, the backup gets a sweet view from the bench, near center ice, and must always pay attention — without the distraction of actually playing.
“I think the number was 265 games I backed up in the NHL,” Valiquette said, “and during that time I would argue there was nobody more focused than I was on the game, because you can get thrown in at any moment.
“So I was playing every scenario through. When a puck came to the net I’d have to really engage myself mentally as if my response was exactly what the goaltender did. If it was a race up the ice I would want to see the patterns of who was passing when through the neutral zone or how a breakaway would happen.
“I’m sure the coaching staff was as engaged as I was, but I’d say that as a player I was the most engaged.”