Zach Fucale's mid-series respite is over and, ideally, he can return to being Nova Scotia's favourite robotic saves producer.
Fucale and the Halifax Mooseheads furrowed many a brow earlier in the week, first when the prized Montreal Canadiens goalie prospect faltered in a playoff game and secondly when his backup Kevin Darveau started in a pivotal win on Wednesday. It was quite a twist for the goalie, whose workload across the past three seasons would make the famously indefatigable Martin Brodeur look lazy. (Coincidentally, it also meant both major junior goalies who started in medal games at the world junior on January 5, Fucale and the Erie Otters' Oscar Dansk, had experienced a dip in performance.) However, the episode may be past, as Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme feels confident enough to go back to Fucale with the Val-d'Or-Halifax QMJHL semifinal down to a best-of-3.
From Willy Palov (@CH_willypalov):
“We were confident Kevin could help us win the game and he did,” said Ducharme. “We also wanted to give a chance to Zach to concentrate on practice and just give him a little bit of time. Now he will go back in the net.”
The decision to go with Darveau in Game 4 ended a stretch of 46 consecutive playoff starts for Fucale, dating back to March of 2012. The Montreal Canadiens draft pick also shouldered the vast majority of the regular season work the past three years, as well as made appearances for Canada at the world under-18 championship and the world juniors.
It would be hard to imagine any CHL goalie playing more over the past three years, let alone experiencing his level of success. It's also fair to say Fucale’s two poor showings in Games 2 and 3 were anomalies and Ducharme is confident he will rebound. (Halifax Chronicle-Herald)
In the short run, it's good news for Halifax, which expects a sellout crowd of 10,595 for the series' swing game on Saturday. In a macro sense, regardless of the external factors that might have been in play, it's a good piece of anecdotal evidence about the need not to overwhelm young athletes. A sample of two — Fucale and Dansk, who started the world junior gold-medal game for Sweden but is now Erie's backup behind Devin Williams in the OHL — isn't enough to make firm conclusions. One does have to wonder, though, about the amount of hockey that netminders who have been labelled as 'elite young goalies' are playing sometimes.
Like Palov alluded to, Fucale is a unique case. The Mooseheads are in their 10th playoff series in the past 25 months, plus Fucale's had the high profile from being a highly touted Quebecois goalie who's been drafted by Les Canadiens. Even part of Hockey Canada's summer development camp before this season was in the Montreal area, meaning more media attention. That all comes with the territory and there's probably no turning off that tap. The upshot for Halifax is it realized there was an issue before Val-d'Or could put it a corner.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.