On the Hot Seat is a column which will run 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.
The Philadelphia Flyers continue to hold on to their identity. Their roster, filled with guys who can knock you down or knock pucks into the net, perennially seems devoid of a true, number-one starting goalie.
Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky burst onto the scene earlier in the year, stunning fans and fantasy pundits alike. We knew some kid named Bob would start their season opener and when he turned out to be good we all grabbed him like our fantasy season depended on it. A Russian netminder with talent seemed to be the best thing since Semyon Varlamov, they figured to have equal value or Bob could even surpass the former first-round pick considering the team’s overwhelming depth.
Well, only one part of the above statement seemed correct.
While Bobrovsky keeps a very respectable 2.48 GAA to go along with a stellar 22-7-3 record, the pesky veteran Brian Boucher continues to stand in the way. Our 22-year-old stud will play four games in a row, then concede not one but multiple starts to his 34-year-old counterpart. It’s not that Bobrovsky plays poorly (expect against Tampa Bay) but fatigue has to be a factor.
Playing in only his first year in North America, Bob experienced parts of four years in Russia’s top league, once known as the RSL and nowadays the dreaded KHL. However, despite the professional pedigree coming into our North-South ranks, he never played more than 35 games at any level. His next start for the Flyers will be his 35th, which will tell you that Boucher and Bobrovsky will continue to split time until the playoffs in order to keep something in the proverbial tank.
We here at Daily Faceoff classify this scenario as On Fire. We expect it to continue that way as the regular season winds down.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Looks like Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a new mentee in town as the veteran watched James Reimer start four of the last five games. It seems Jonas Gustavsson might stay with the Toronto Marlies a bit longer after undergoing minor heart surgery meaning Reimer would be staying with the big club. For the good of the organization, expect Reimer to continue playing as long as he continues winning.
While Giguere looks relatively solid, or as solid as he can be in Toronto, this season has been marred by injuries which kept the 33-year-old sidelined for large chunks of the season. Nevertheless, the Quebecois still has history with Brian Burke and should remain in the mix for starts until his contract expires. Considering the timing, it seems like the emergence of Reimer happened at just the right time.
Things look bleak in Ottawa, and it looks like it can’t really get much worse. The team lost Jason Spezza for a large amount of time for the second consecutive season and now Daniel Alfredsson looks to miss some time. Their offseason acquisition of Sergei Gonchar seems to be a colossal bust and Alexei Kovalev just continues to show no heart. Perhaps less surprising was the story of Pascal Leclaire, who once again raised the hopes of Sens fans before once again hurting himself for a lengthy amount of time. Despite the talent, the team needs some addition by subtraction and should cut all ties with the enigmatic netminder.
With Leclaire essentially out of the picture, the team will alternate between 19-year-old bluechip prospect Robin Lehner and on-again-off-again Brian Elliot. Seriously, Elliott is the ex-girlfriend of starting goalies, holding the franchise record for consecutive wins AND losses. Expect these two to continue splitting time down the stretch barring another Leclaire tease.
Two days ago the Avs sent starting goalie Craig Anderson home for personal reasons. After a stellar 2009-2010 campaign where Andy helped put Colorado back on the map, he seems only good for the W, if that. Andy is currently on a personal six-game losing streak, getting pulled in half of those tilts. Relieving him would be former starter Peter Budaj, who prior to his last four appearances allowed three-or-more goals in every start dating back to November 12th.
To win, this team needs a change between the pipes. It may come via trade, waiver wire, even trying out John Grahame seems to be a halfway decent idea. For now monitor the situation as this appears to be the calm before the storm.
New York Islanders
The Isles’ active roster holds five goalies, three of which sit on injured reserve. It appears for now the team will sit tight with not-ready rookie Mikko Koskinen and former bust prospect Al Montoya as they wait for either Nathan Lawson or Rick DiPietro to come back from injury. However, aside from their beleaguered netminders and Blake Comeau/Mark Streit, the team is relatively healthy in a time where most of the East deals with injuries.
Playing spoiler seems to be this team’s destiny as they have done numerous times over the last couple of years. Streit may very well return to the lineup within the month and somehow they won two straight in front of Koskinen.
Despite Michal Neuvirth’s heroics last Sunday, it is tough to buy him playing more than a backup role. Head coach Bruce Boudreau can watch Semyon Varlamov give up leads/wins until his face turns red (and it does) but with Neuvirth he opens his mouth. All season Boudreau expressed the need for a consistent starter, the need for someone to carry them. If the past two postseasons are any indicator: it will be and will continue to be Varlamov manning the pipes.
Varlamov should get another chance to reclaim his position starting tonight. With only 21 games played on the year, the Caps can afford to ride him down the stretch and get him in playoff mode without jeopardizing his health. With only 27 games left on the regular season schedule, expect Varlamov to see the majority of starts, barring an injury.
For some reason it looks like Nikolai Khabibulin is sulking under that mask. Wouldn’t you sulk if you were on a career-worst 13-game losing streak, with all 13 losses coming in regulation? How about losing your starting job on the worst team in hockey to a once passed-over sophomore? Check and check.
While Khabibulin continues to watch his career win-loss totals suffer, Devan Dubnyk looks to be a pretty decent goalie, stealing the job from a once elite ‘tender. Even better, he looks somewhat solid across the board with a 6-6-6 record, 2.76 GAA and very respectable .915 SV% on a porous team. If you need a desperation start, Dubnyk could help the Oil play spoiler and probably won’t hurt in at least SV%.
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 Marty Turco, 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.