On the Hot Seat is a 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.
Last night when the Detroit Red Wings faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, they lost their starting goalie in Jimmy Howard and almost lost their third-stringer twice. The aforementioned third-stringer, AHL veteran Joey MacDonald, held his hamstring in an overtime pile-up before shrugging off his pain and then withstanding a barreling Rick Nash essentially falling flat on top of him– hence the joke “throw some pads of Draper.”
Despite our jokes, the Red Wings are in serious trouble between the pipes.
With a bruised knee, Howard is listed as day-to-day making MacDonald the expected starter tonight. Backing him up will be former first round pick Thomas McCollum as Chris Osgood needs up to six weeks of rehab for his sports hernia. The team can either pray for a quick return from the clearly exhausted Howard or make a move for a more stable goaltender, unless they feel one of MacDonald or McCollum can keep them from falling in the standings.
This situation is the definition of ‘on fire.’
Scott Clemmensen makes his second straight start tonight despite Tomas Vokoun taking exception to his recent benching. The latter netminder insists he will not request a trade but one has to believe this sudden confidence in Clemmensen sounds fishy. The Panthers allow the eighth-most shots against which is never good for any starting goalie trying to stabilize the team. However, their shots faced is an improvement from last season’s leaders in that very category. Expect Vokoun to earn back his job rather easily if the team decides not to trade him as sitting on the bench simply will not help out any party involved.
The Wild were forced to start rookie Anton Khudobin now that their third-string goaltender, Jose Theodore, could not play. Three of the team’s goalies practiced today with Niklas Backstrom still on the injured reserve list. This team remains in that congested Western Conference playoff race so in theory their starting goalie would have value as Theodore recently won a star of the week and was mentioned in our Crashing the Net feature. Regardless, the safest bet would be Backstrom returning and not relying on a rookie with only 68 minutes played this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
James Reimer looked to be the solution in Toronto with Jonas Gustavsson getting his fair share of flack from fans. The rookie, who fared quite well in his limited playing time (4-2-0, 2.27, .933) will need to wait for Jean-Sebastien Giguere to either falter or get hurt again or for Gustavsson to get a demotion. For now he will play for the Marlies while Giguere tries to get back into a rhythm.
Peter Budaj started two of the last three Avalanche games but allowed four goals in each of his starts. In fact, he has allowed three or more goals in each of his last 12 starts as he remains consistently mediocre. His counterpart, Craig Anderson, sports a GAA just south of three as both goalies heavily rely on their offense to bail them out. To their defense, the Avs allow over 31 shots-per-game on average so a SV% of .900 entails three goals a night. If this team wants to make it past the first round or even into the playoffs, one of their two goalies need to step up or the team needs to make a move.
New Jersey Devils
Since Jacques Lemaire returned to New Jersey, the Devils have looked slightly better. No longer does a player just get thrown into the lineup– Mark Fayne, Anssi Salmela, Mattias Tedenby– and no longer does Martin Brodeur hold the undisputed number one job. For the first time in his career, the Hall of Famer no longer is expected to play every back-to-back weekend and no longer does he sit remotely close to the League leaders in any goaltending category. Perhaps the biggest surprise in New Jersey is that they actually allow the least shots in the League while still trying to play a tight, defensive system which emphasizes good conditioning and hard work. While the latter does not seem to be working, the former remains in tact. Brodeur started the last two for the Devils while Johan Hedberg began the previous five games. Expect the two veterans to continue taking turns.
Brian Boucher started the calendar year with the starting goalie role but recently seems to be faltering as expected. The younger Sergei Bobrovsky has won his last two starts while allowing only two goals in each contest while Boucher is fresh off a 7-5 loss. Both netminders have been prone to the occaisonal blowout with Bob also losing miserably to the Ducks right before the New Year which should make their playing time more of a joint effort.
With Corey Crawford currently riding a shutout streak there seems to be no controversy in Chicago. Starting Marty Turco seems to be a thing of the past so expect Crawford to take a 80/20 split for the foreseeable future barring a complete meltdown. Shades of Antti Niemi, which has been discussed ad nauseum, but the Blackhawks have shown in the past they don’t need an elite netminder, just one who keeps them in the game on a consistent basis.
New York Islanders
Rick DiPietro returns today which probably ends the reign of 20-year-old Kevin Poulin. Regardless, DiPietro needs to prove that he can stay healthy for consecutive games before the Isles even make a roster move. Nathan Lawson, should he stay up with the big club, will probably see 40 percent of the playing time with a healthy DiPi as the latter constantly needs maintenance days and has failed to play most back-to-back games with a variety of injuries.
Tampa Bay Lightning
I understand that twice now Dwayne Roloson got the hook but Steve Yzerman and the team’s brass will continue to show faith in their ageless asset. Take away his two blowouts and Roloson only allowed one goal with two sensational shutouts over the Washington Capitals. In divisional games, Roloson plays well but he needs to improve against team’s with waves of scoring like the Penguins and recently the Devils. Considering rookie Cedric Desjardins outplayed Dan Ellis, there seems to be no plans in handing the job over to their free agent acquisition.
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 Brent Johnson, 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.