PITTSBURGH -- As far as goaltending goes, this is being called the "B movie" Stanley Cup final.
Pittsburgh's Tom Barrasso and Chicago's Ed Belfour can stop as many pucks as they like. The criticism is still likely to keep coming at the B-boys, even the one who eventually wins the series, which opens tonight (7:30, HTS).
They continually hear that their teams have to overcome their sometimes erratic play to win.
Belfour shrugs pleasantly at the swipes. Barrasso barks viciously.
"I'll leave all the slandering and slurring to the media," Barrasso said yesterday. "I don't know why people say what they do about me, and I stopped caring a long time ago.
"When I was younger, sure, it bothered me.But now I have no real use for the media. It's not a dislike, it's just that you guys can't do anything for me. What does it matter to me what you say?
"Obviously, it's not high on my priority list to stand around for 45 minutes after practices and games and be interviewed. I've established what is important to me.
"I've played nine years, and I don't have a long time left. My wife and children are my priorities. When hockey is over when I'm 35 or so, I'll have plenty to contribute to the rest of my life. Hockey isn't everything there is.
"I didn't look at winning a Cup last year as vindication for myself. We have a good club. Sometimes you lose your focus in eight months of playing. The regular season is highly overrated. But winning a Cup is what we play for, and there is not a player sitting at home now who wouldn't want to trade places with us."
Belfour isn't as jaded as Barrasso. Both are 27, but Barrasso has been in the NHL longer, because Buffalo took him in the first round in 1983. Belfour went undrafted and rose to prominence last year when he won the Vezina and Calder trophies as the best goalie and rookie.
He laughed when asked if he thought he could someday be as bitter as Barrasso, whether years of abuse could break down his protective shell.
"You've got to earn your respect," he said. "It doesn't come like that. You've got to prove it over and over until people realize that you're good.
"I've heard this all my life, so it doesn't bother me. I've won pretty much everywhere I've been. Maybe that's why, because of what others have said about me. I suppose being the underdog, having people tell you you can't do something, does motivate me."