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.
Tuukka Rask needs to play more than he did last year. As the future of the Boston Bruins he only found his way into 29 games while he watched Tim Thomas simply dominate the opposition. Well, this season should be different. No level of dominance will keep Rask out of games, leading to making consecutive starts despite Thomas coming off a shutout.
A full week after that shutout, Thomas is listed as confirmed to start against the Sabres on Saturday night which is a clear indicator that he still is the starting goalie in Boston. Nevertheless, Rask will be used more which makes him an inevitable handcuff to one of the best goalies in the League. Don’t call it a controversy, call it reality as Rask will get upwards of 35 starts by the end of the season.
Without further ado, here’s the rest of the goalie controversies around the League:
Al Montoya vs. Rick DiPietro vs. Evgeni Nabokov
Montoya got the most recent start when the Isles lost in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche. Aside from a relief appearance against the Boston Bruins, Montoya did not start since October 20th after allowing four goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the team plays better behind him, he has a very limited margin for error.
Most likely Evgeni Nabokov gets the next start when the Islanders face the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, mainly due to his experience against the Western Conference foe. Until he is inevitably shipped out you can expect Nabokov and Rick DiPietro to split most of the work as the Islanders continue their up-and-down play.
Jonas Gustavsson vs. Ben Scrivens
Scrivens shut the door on the St. Louis Blues and the Toronto Maple Leafs losing streak on Thursday, stopping 38 of 40 shots. The Spruce Grove, Alberta is a relative unknown, much like the player he replaced in James Reimer but his minor league numbers were solid. We can only expect he gets the start against the Sens on Saturday night.
On the other hand, ‘The Monster’ has left many opportunities on the table with an decent 4-4-0 record in spite of his 3.78 GAA and .878 SV%. It has taken a top-5 offense, provided by Phil Kessel and company to keep the team in the game. At this point, coach Ron Wilson and company can only continue to monitor James Reimer’s status as they pray his makeshift goaltending duo can keep his team in the running.
Jhonas Enroth vs. Ryan Miller
Don’t look now but Enroth won again, earning his fifth win and improving an already stellar 1.44 GAA and .952 SV%. Right now he has just been stellar and makes a compelling case to take a few more starts away from Ryan Miller. More impressively, he has not allowed more than two goals in any of his six appearances. Furthermore, his minor league track record could allow him to stay in the NHL for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, Miller picked up the win in his last start but allowed five goals to the Winnipeg Jets in the process. He is expected to start against the Bruins on Saturday night but that plan could change if coach Lindy Ruff wants to ruffle a few more feathers (Ed note: which he won’t as Miller is confirmed). Is Enroth this year’s Brent Johnson? Only time will tell.
Mathieu Garon vs. Dwayne Roloson
Garon has just been awful over his last two starts. He allowed five goals through 32 minutes against the Nashville Predators and three goals in 15 minutes against the Florida Panthers. Suffice to say he would remain the backup if Dwayne Roloson showed even a modicum of consistency.
Roloson won his last three appearances, cleaning up for Garon in between starts. His last win — a 14-save appearances against the Philadelphia Flyers — hopefully could be a sign of things to come for his fantasy hockey owners. However, expecting a 42-year-old to play more consistently is not an easy task. Expect a 50/30 split in Roloson’s favor over the rest of the season.
Jaroslav Halak vs. Brian Elliott
In the Ken Hitchcock era Jaroslav Halak has gotten both of the starts. The results have been much better as the Bratislava, Czechoslovakia native has stopped 49 of 51 shots. Despite his early season struggles, the former postseason star has rebounded and should look solid for the rest of the season under a strict defensive system.
Unfortunately, Brian Elliott will be relegated to bench work. His 1.72 GAA and .941 SV% are second to only Nikolai Khabibulin as he remains an excellent handcuff but he probably won’t be stealing too many starts away from Halak. At the end of the season expect him to take at most 25-30 starts away from Halak.
Josh Harding vs. Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding is on fire with four consecutive wins allowing only three goals over that span. In the interest of fairness, he conceded a start to starting goalie Niklas Backstrom but will be back in nets against the Los Angeles Kings. As long as he remains hot he will continue getting the call between the pipes.
His counterpart Backstrom is 33-years-old with a $6 million cap hit set to run through 2013. It looks like one of the two will need to be traded unless the Wild revert back to their 40-40 splits. Until then continue to monitor our starting goalies section as this decision will be made on a day-to-day basis.
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 awesomeness of Ty Conklin or your love affair for Andrew Raycroft, 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.