On the Hot Seat is our newest column which will post on every other Saturday and will discuss the likely changes between the pipes at the moment. Think of this as a primer that will go over basically any starting goalie position that might be in jeopardy whatsoever.
Despite missing a significant portion of the season, veteran netminder Craig Anderson simply looks worn out. Last season, ‘Andy’ made the most saves out of any goaltender while also facing the most shots amongst starting goalies. Due to this, he has already gone on injured reserve twice and continues to be prone to fatigue.
Before last night’s win– which he almost blew a three goal lead– Anderson allowed eight goals over his last two games. However, the problem in Colorado goes a bit deeper than just Anderson needing help. Defensively, this team could use a face lift. Yes, they added Kevin Shattenkirk and Matt Hunwick to the mix but relying on Adam Foote to be a shutdown d-man he was in the 90s and Ryan O’Byrne to be a first pairing d-man has not helped out anyone.
With a 3.18 GAA and .901 SV%, Anderson certainly is not helping himself out as an impending free agent. While Peter Budaj has been worse– 3.05 GAA and .897 SV%– the Avs need some further stability, whether it be allowing less shots or getting a backup who can actually make the D look good. Even though the team averages 3.41 goals-per-game, which is good for third in the League, they would probably prefer their netminders allowing closer to two goals per game to have longterm success.
With Michael Leighton’s sloppy debut last night, the three-headed monster rose up from the injured reserve list. Leighton happens to be the most expensive of the three and might push Bobrovsky to the minors temporarily, which would be a shame. Playing on the best team in the League has its benefits as both Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher hold excellent win-loss records and each have decent save percentages in .916 and .919 respectively. At this point, they still need to at least give Leighton the chance to earn his job back after he carried them last year. Still with both netminders playing well if Leighton falters he will probably be the odd man out. Boucher’s contract expires at the end of the season with Leighton and Bobrovsky both signed through next year, which is also something to keep in mind for their longterm future.
The Winter Classic is less than 24 hours away and we still have no idea who starts between the pipes for the Capitals. Semyon Varlamov won the last two games and now has three quality starts in a row. On the other hand, Michal Neuvirth could be a candidate for the start with five consecutive quality starts. Coach Bruce Boudreau likes to instill a win-you’re-in policy which would dictate Varlamov in the contest. Regardless, this competition is far from over and will likely stay that way until the playoffs. Varlamov occupies the inside track for now but the true decision is not that cut and dry.
San Jose Sharks
This story stays the same, all season long. Antti Niemi looks bad, plays poorly and loses starts until Antero Niittymaki does the same. Niemi seems to only truly play well against the Blackhawks, which helps considering how often they play each other and his current three wins against them. Six separate times this season Niemi allowed more than six goals in a game while Niittymaki has only been slightly better doing it four times. It seems like Niitty would be the starting goalie should the playoffs start tomorrow, of course unless the Sharks played the Blackhawks. The team wisely spot-starts Niemi in order to keep him fresh while letting Niitty simply win them games which is a formula that puts the team sixth in the Western Conference.
New York Islanders
Dwayne Roloson all but won the position with three consecutive wins last week. Unfortunately his defense let him down against the New York Rangers, where he needed to fend off 52 shots in a 7-2 drudging. Enter the recently healthy Rick DiPietro and his standout performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins, shutting out Sidney Crosby for the first time in 26 games. As we previously explained, DiPietro gets every opportunity to start as his benching signifies a colossal mistake by Charles Wang. Roloson should be traded sooner rather than later as the fire sale in Long Island began a few days ago with the James Wisniewski trade. Interesting to see the two netminders go back and forth in the meantime, Roloson certainly deserves a better fate.
Devan Dubnyk continues to push for more playing time by keeping the Oilers in almost every game he plays. Last night was no exception as he got the Oilers to a shootout even though he allowed three goals on only 27 shots. When considering the balky nature of Nikolai Khabibulin’s back along with his inconsistency it should only be a matter of time before Dubnyk receives even more work. The addition of Ryan O’Marra and Jeff Petry should be considered only the tip of the iceberg when looking at the team’s youth movement. Dubnyk is the goalie of the future and will win the starting gig one way or another.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Although head coach Scott Arniel wants to go with Steve Mason since his success should eventually lead to the team’s future success, the youngster’s performance simply has been sub-par. Mathieu Garon looked like the answer but like most of his career he failed to keep the starting job effectively handing it back over to Mason, who goes for his third win in a row. To be a decent team, they know that Mason simply needs to stand on his head to have any success. The question is now how long can he be consistent and can he keep his team in games long enough to get the win.
Flu bug aside, Corey Crawford holds a firm grip on the starting goalie position. With Marty Turco back between the pipes, the Blackhawks experienced the same lulls as they did earlier in the season with him at the helm, watching the San Jose Sharks trounce them 5-3. Expect Crawford to continue to take the brunt of the playing time as the team pushes to make the playoffs with their variety of injuries.
Anders Lindback might have been the best goalie in the League while starter Pekka Rinne was hurt but he will go back to his backup role. Over the Predators’ history, they have developed no-name backups into future starts from Tomas Vokoun to Dan Ellis to Rinne and now likely Lindback. Expect his time to come in the next few seasons as the cycle likely continues in Nashville. However, for now it appears Rinne has a very safe job.
This discussion leaves the hot seat mainly due to another Pascal Leclaire injury leaving Brian Elliott as the lame duck starter. When Leclaire returns he more than likely reclaims the role but his injury has been somewhat indefinite leading to a good deal of Mike Brodeur call-ups. One thing seems clear in Ottawa: neither the coaching staff nor the fans seem to want Elliott occupying the crease.
We hope you enjoyed our segment on starting goalies and fending off their backups as much as we enjoyed writing it. If there are glaring omissions such as the hot start of Cory Schneider or your love affair for Johan “The Moose” Hedberg, let your voice be heard in the comments. Regardless, make sure to take all of the advice in and continue to check our renowned starting goalies section, which is updated all day until game time.