On the Hot Seat is a column which will run on Saturdays 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.
Ilya Bryzgalov remains the Flyers’ starting goalie but Sergei Bobrovsky will see his fair share of starts. Even though Bobrovsky posted noticeably better numbers than his counterpart — 2.42 GAA/.919 SV% opposed to 2.87 GAA/.898 SV% — the sophomore is not expected to take the reigns any time soon. Considering Bryzgalov is a high-profile signing, the Flyers will continue to give him every opportunity to improve. For what it is worth, Bryzgalov has been much better in 2012.
New Jersey Devils
On Wednesday, Devils head coach Pete DeBoer announced he would start Martin Brodeur down the stretch. Although Marty has played in only 33 of the team’s 50 tilts, he will be the difference between sneaking into the playoffs and missing the show for the second consecutive season. While the start totals look eerily similar between himself and backup Johan Hedberg, the latter is only expected to play during backup tilts. To date, the Moose has started 90 percent of those backup contests.
New York Islanders
Evgeni Nabokov has one foot out the door as he is expected to be traded by the end of the month. In the meantime, the longtime Shark is enjoying a bounce-back season where his goals against and save percentage are both better than his career averages– it’s also his best season since 2007-2008. Once Nabokov is eventually shipped off, Al Montoya and even prospect Kevin Poulin will get their fair share of playing time. Until then, feel confident in starting Nabby.
Tim Thomas may be a perennial All Star and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner but Tuukka Rask has been superb. As of this writing, both goalies are in the top 10 in goals against and top five in save percentage. In the team’s first six back-to-back games, Rask has started in every set, which makes sense considering the Bruins want to get their younger counterpart into more games. Look for head coach Claude Julien to operate on a 60/40 basis favoring Thomas while keeping their choices very close to the vest.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Who is the goalie to ride down the stretch? If history is any indication, James Reimer will backstop the Leafs to their destined position in the standings. Following a standout, shutout performance against Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Reimer looks fully healthy and ready to start every game with the city of Toronto behind him. However, this time he has a solid safety net in Jonas Gustavsson, who may have proved himself as a capable NHL goalie.
The All-Star break was good to Ryan Miller. After playing perhaps the worst hockey of his career, head coach Lindy Ruff almost platooned Miller and Jhonas Enroth in January. However, allowing only one goal on 57 shots over his last two games should instill a vote of confidence in the former Vezina Trophy winner. Furthermore, if he can keep up his solid play, the Sabres may get back into the playoff picture.
Detroit Red Wings
As you know, Jimmy Howard will miss roughly two weeks with broken fingers. In his place will be backup extraordinaire Ty Conklin with journeyman Joey MacDonald backing him up. However, there were rumors that the Red Wings could be seeking a more reliable backup before the trade deadline. For now, expect Conklin to get the bulk of the starts and for MacDonald to possibly see some action in a pinch.
St. Louis Blues
Jaroslav Halak remains the big-ticket attraction between the pipes for the Blues. While Brian Elliott is an All Star, Ken Hitchcock and company want bang for their buck when it comes to Halak which explains his sudden stretch of starts. Due to the defense-heavy system implemented in St. Louis, both goalies will have their share of low-scoring games. In fact, both goalies rank in the top six in GAA. At this point both ‘tenders are very steady options.
Ray Emery was brought into Chicago in order to push Corey Crawford. So far it has only hurt his counterpart’s peripherals. After a breakout rookie campaign, Crawford has been rather mediocre with a 2.94 GAA and .900 SV%. And while those statistics would be suitable for Grant Fuhr in the 80s, they probably won’t cut it come playoff time. To his credit, Crawford has managed to keep it close in important games but you should expect Emery to string together consecutive starts — especially after one of Crawford’s now-trademark blowout losses.
After missing an entire season, Josh Harding returned to the NHL and by all means hasn’t missed a beat. Prior to his injury, he was a highly-touted, blue chip prospect who turned into a very solid backup — the same ilk as Cory Schneider and Sergei Bobrovsky. However, this season, he was given the reigns to the starting goalie gig, albeit briefly, and could not hold onto it. After Harding’s five-goal meltdown against the Predators, Niklas Backstrom took back the role and should roll with it following his 37-save shutout against the Avs. Expect Harding to get some back-to-back starts while Backstrom leads the Wild the rest of the way.
Plain and simple: Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been better. And while the Avs traded away their first round pick(and more) for Semyon Varlamov, the younger counterpart simply has not been consistent enough to earn the confidence of coach Joe Sacco. By that same token, Giguere has been fantastic, sporting a 2.10 GAA and .922 SV% through 24 games. More importantly, he’s allowed four-or-more goals only twice this season. Expect the mentor to remain the starting goalie unless he goes on a stretch of bad starts.
Devan Dubnyk has taken the job and ran with it. For the first time all season, the younger counterpart started on back-to-back nights. In addition, he’s made four starts in a row as he brings the Oilers back into the playoff picture. A couple of months ago, Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski predicted Dubnyk would take over before the end of the season, effectively keeping his team in the mix. Well, their MvsW podcast is popular for a reason as the prophecy has come true and Nikolai Khabibulin has been relegated to the bench. Hard to argue with results so as long as Dubnyk keeps the puck out of the net, he will start.