What a preseason that was but what does it tell us? Toronto and Vancouver are most likely to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals and Pittsburgh will be a cellar dweller? Hardly. At least the player performances and roster cuts give us an idea of some interesting goaltending situations to look at entering the 2009-10 season.
So, continuing a feature we’re going to look at frequently this year, which goalies’ starting jobs are in jeopardy?
Challenger: Pekka Rinne, Dan Ellis
What looked like a shoo-in for a solid season in Nashville for Pekka Rinne has quickly started off in flux. Last season, Rinne ousted Dan Ellis for the starting role and led the Predators to post-season contention with 29 wins and seven shutouts. In four games this preseason, however, Rinne has gone 0-2 with a 3.97 GAA and .800 SV%. Ellis has posted some of the best numbers of all goaltenders in the preseason going 3-0 with a 1.61 GAA and a .944 SV% in four appearances. Coach Barry Trotz said that no decision he makes on the opening day starter will translate into a long-term decision for the Predators so look for a big battle here for the starting gig. If you drafted Rinne with high hopes this season, it may be time to flag some goalies for pickup on the waiver wire (Jonathan Quick) or load up on Rinne and Ellis if you feel the Predators will contend this season. However, you may also be rewarded if you are patient with Rinne and await official word on Trotz’s plans.
Challenger: Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov
Coach Bruce Boudreau announced Wednesday that over the first 30 to 40 games in the regular season, both Theodore and Varlamov will play evenly and then someone will eventually prove themselves into the starting role. If you own either Theodore or Varlamov, it might be worth trying to pick up the handcuff to ensure you get the most out of a potent Washington Capitals team.
Challenger: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jonas Hiller
Both goalies are about as good as it gets when it comes to leading an NHL club and Carlyle has previously said that it’s up to both goalies to prove they belong in the leading role. Looking at each goalie’s three preseason appearances, Hiller has the edge going 1-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .926 SV% while Giguere went 2-1-0 with a 3.20 GAA and .895 SV%. Carlyle still hasn’t leaked who his starting goalie is so look for a goaltender-by-committee until someone jumps out front.
Starter: Vesa Toskala
Challenger: Jonas Gustavsson
Brian Burke says there is no goaltending controversy in Toronto but he also said that making the playoffs is his goal for the Leafs this season – that pressure alone puts Toskala on the hot seat. Jonas Gustavsson didn’t let in a goal the entire preseason, but he also only played 60 minutes against a Detroit lineup which essentially resembled the Grand Rapids Griffins. Toskala has the Leafs brass backing him up despite his poor preseason but his leash will still be short if he continues that trend into the regular season.
Starter: Carey Price
Challenger: Jaroslav Halak
Price is still the starter in Montreal and with a new coach, new faces, and GM Bob Gainey’s job on the line, the pressure is on. Price had a below average season last year and split much of the workload with Halak (52:34 GP). To help matters, Halak had a stellar preseason (1.56GAA in 3GP) but it’s undetermined if he has the tools to take over as the Habs’ starting goalie. Price has the vote of confidence from Jacques Martin and will have the coach’s defense-focused system to help him out. Should Price get off to a slow start, however, Bob Gainey might put the wheels in motion and get someone in who can take the reins immediately.
Be sure to check back with DailyFaceoff.com throughout the NHL season as we will have up to date and accurate lineups for all 30 NHL teams including powerplay units. We will also let you know who’s starting in net for both teams in every game this regular season in our Between the Posts section.