On the Hot Seat: Lundqvist shutout fends off Biron, critics

Updated: November 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm by Alexander Monaghan

On the Hot Seat is our newest column which will post on every Saturday or every other Saturday (haven’t decided yet) 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.

Heating up…

Starting Goalie – Henrik Lundqvist, 28 (8-8-1, 2.7a GAA, .917 SV%)

Backup – Martin Biron, 33 (5-2-0, 2.15 GAA, .917 SV%)

Henrik Lundqvist was announced last night’s starter at approximately 7:08 PM for a game that promptly started at 7:30.  Clearly this situation is new to the Swedish netminder who has never really had to compete for a starting gig in his NHL career.  His first season happened to be a revelation for the New York Rangers, who seemed to win every game he stepped on the ice. However, that was five years ago and this season is a completely different animal.

Martin Biron has come on strong and by all means has been the most complete backup Lundqvist has ever had the pleasure of playing with.  In the past when Lundqvist slumped, the team slumped.  Now, if the team slumps coach John Tortorella just puts in Biron, who has only allowed more than two goals once this season. Once.

Even though, Tortorella has insisted that Lundqvist is and will remain the Rangers’ starter, there is no denying how zoned in Biron looks.  Regardless, Lundqvist is on pace for only 58 games started this season which would be his lowest since his rookie year.  We think you are safe as a fantasy owner, just get less opportunities for starts which likely takes the Swede from a step below Roberto Luongo as elite to a more valuable netminder like Pekka Rinne.

Starting Goalie – Marty Turco, 35 (8-7-2, 2.90 GAA, .904 SV%)

Backup – Corey Crawford, 25 (4-4-0, 2.21 GAA, .922 SV%)

Turco has been as inconsistent as you could imagine, posting even worse numbers than the ones that ushered him out of Dallas.  When the Blackhawks signed him they most likely anticipated the veteran picking up his slack while keeping his save percentage closer to the .913 of last year.  Unfortunately for them it has been closer to the year before where he finished with a palty .898; not that Antti Niemi has done any better. Turco has lost his last two games, giving way to the younger Crawford– who will look to win back-to-back games tonight.

On Fire!

Starting Goalie – Rick DiPietro, 29 (3-3-0, 3.53 GAA, .883 SV%)

Backup – Dwayne Roloson, 41 (2-9-1, 2.58 GAA, 912 SV%)

DiPietro started the season as the starter before getting up-ended by the veteran Roloson.  There was some mystery over whether the American netminder was hurt as he often would sit out practices and let Roloson play both back-to-back games during a stretch but it appears that he is now back in full form.  Over his last three games, DiPietro has not allowed a loss in regulation and has made an awful team look relatively respectable.  He singlehandedly broke a 14-game losing streak leading people on the Island to actually believe making the playoffs is somewhat attainable.  Chris Botta of Fanhouse pointed out that the team is only eight points back of the final playoff position.

Roloson, by comparison, has simply been a hard-luck loser.  A simple glance at his periperals above would clearly show that he has been the superior goalie this season.  If he could find his way to a new team he would easily be a fantasy-relevant goalie. However, we will leave trade speculation for another day… (soon)

Starting Goalie – Pascal Leclaire, 28 (1-5-1, 3.22 GAA, .898 SV%)

Backup – Brian Elliott, 25 (9-7-0, 3.14 GAA, .905 SV%)

Leclaire only has one win to his name despite deserving three from his last three starts where he only allowed six goals total.  Tonight he will sit in favor of Brian Elliott but head coach Cory Clouston has made it abundantly clear that he will play the hot hand. Right now that hot hand just happens to be Leclaire, who the coach also showed favoritism towards earlier in the year by riding him right into another inevitable injury.

While Leclaire probably projects to be a borderline elite goaltender and has much higher pedigree he will likely split a bunch of starts with his counterpart for the rest of the season.  Elliott has a legendary standing with the Sens and could be their best goalie of all-time considering his tendency to win in bunches.  Expect some inconsistency from Leclaire, maybe even more hard-luck losses before Elliott takes over the reigns and puts some wins together once again. Then rinse, repeat; Leclaire could even get hurt again.

Starting Goalie – Dan Ellis, 30 (5-4-2, 2.86 GAA, .895 SV%)

Starting Goalie – Mike Smith, 28 (8-4-0, 3.36 GAA, .879 SV%)

It seems like coach Guy Boucher simply flips a coin on this one.  Why not?  Their peripheral figures leave so much to be desired but that clearly does not matter when Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis connect a couple times a night.  Most recently Smith has been playing between the pipes and won four straight before allowing four goals in half of a game. Naturally, Boucher turns back to the more talented and consistent of the two in Ellis who has been a disappointment in his own right.  This swap seems to be the norm in Boucher’s system which makes you wonder if one will eventually step up.

So far neither has been motivated to make a good team even better with a stable goal crease which also could lead to the team upgrading.

Cooling off…

Starting Goalie – Tim Thomas, 36 (11-2-1, 1.56 GAA, .951 SV%)

Backup – Tuukka Rask, 23 (1-5-1, 2.36 GAA, .935 SV%).

Just one look at the records above will tell you why Thomas has started.  In fact, by omitting shutouts in the above statistical goodness we leave out the fact that Rask only has won ONE game and he had to get a shutout to do so!  Honestly, it is a combination of a few things here.  One, Thomas is having a career year– which says a lot considering he is a former Vezina Trophy winner.  Second, Rask had his confidence shattered in Prague and simply has not recovered since.  One bad outing and he lost his job to the veteran and never got a legitimate chance to get it back while the team was fully healthy.

Regardless, Rask has been getting more starts than before  even though the Bruins have cooled and have not been great to either netminder.  It probably looks like more of the same moving forward as the team has the pleasure of icing two legitimate starting goalies.  If Rask comes on towards the end of the year he might even take over between the pipes like he did last year.

Starting Goalie – Antero Niittymaki, 30 (7-2-3, 2.07 GAA, 919 SV%)

Backup – Antti Niemi, 27 (3-5-1, 3.93 GAA, .877 SV%)

Niemi got the start against the Chicago Blackhawks in an effort to jump-start his otherwise lackluster season. Niemi responded with signs of life, leading the team to a 5-2 win over the defending champs before allowing six to the Vancouver Canucks in his following start. Still this situation is tricky.

The Sharks play Niittymaki and he wins them games, yet they prefer to stick with their Niemi signing which was done to clearly take over the reigns from his Finnish counterpart.  This team likely failed to watch the Cup finals and focused primarily on how Niemi beat them in the playoffs, which was probably due more to even worse netminding by Evgeni Nabokov. If the team wanted Niemi to play like he did in the playoffs they need an upgrade on their blue line, end of story.  Until then they will probably begrudgingly start Niittymaki (and win) while trying to get Niemi going all year.

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 Jose Theodore’s all-natural hair 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.

Antero Niittymaki, Antti Niemi, Brian Elliott, Corey Crawford, Dan Ellis, Dwayne Roloson, Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Biron, Marty Turco, Mike Smith, Pascal Leclaire, Rick DiPietro, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask