Standup guy

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:19 PM ET


 VANCOUVER -- So often, they've come in waves at Dan Cloutier.

 Some high and hard.

 A few marked for the corners. Often at the head.

 Yet the Vancouver Canucks netminder stands in there and deflects them.

 We're not talking pucks. We're talking the shots of a different kind.

 For years, Cloutier's ability to backstop the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup has been questioned. The assault comes from all directions: Hockey media, call-in shows and scouts.

 Give him credit for this -- Cloutier never backs down. Teammates aren't willing to discuss his past struggles but the 27-year-old refuses to shy away.

 "That's the type of person I am. I'm playing out there. I know what I'm doing right or wrong, I don't need people to tell me," he said. "It's just the way I've always looked at it."

 Starting tonight when the Canucks and Calgary Flames meet in the opener of their best-of-seven series, the onus will be on Cloutier to deflect pucks as well as criticism.

 His detractors have a good case.

 Sure, he's won more than 30 games in all three of his seasons with Vancouver but each and every post-season has been a disaster. In 22 post-season games, Cloutier has a goals-against average of 3.43 and .866 save percentage.

 Then toss in the spectre of Nicklas Lidstrom's centre-ice tally two years ago and last season's second-round meltdown against Minnesota -- a blown 3-1 series lead, including a dreadful Game 7.

 Those in his corner point to his wins and blame some of past failures on injuries such as the knee and finger problems that required surgery last summer.

 Cloutier does his best to ignore both sides.

 "I'm not going to worry about what other people say," he said. "People can say this and that but they haven't been in my position."

 Cloutier won his last six regular-season games, allowing seven goals for a 1.16 GAA and .950 save percentage.

 "He's continuing to progress as a goaltender," said Canucks coach Marc Crawford. "Goaltending -- like coaching, like playing -- the experiences you have shape who you become. You see situations for the umpteenth time, you're better served to handle them.

 "Dany's worked at his game, how he plays, how he prepares, his conditioning, how he recovers after games, good performances and poor performances.

 "We have a lot of confidence in Danny and think he's going to be the best he's been."

 The pressure's on him to be.


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