Top 5 early goalie controversies #2

Updated: November 7, 2010 at 10:09 am by Alexander Monaghan

Back on October 23rd, I decided to write an article on the top goalies who could lose their job.  Two weeks later it seems like an excellent opportunity to revisit the subject.  As far as our last list goes, it seems like Antero Niittymaki, Marty Turco, Michal Neuvirth and Sergei Bobrovsky have taken a firm grasp of their position, however new candidates have presented themselves.

These are their stories…

Honorable Mention: Tim Thomas vs. Tuukka Rask

The first time we looked at these two netminders, it made the number two pick on the list.  Now, it seems to have been a bit more settled.

Thomas looked relatively shaky last night and was pulled against the firepower of the Washington Capitals; but it was Rask who eventually took the loss. Even though, Rask will likely start tonight it seems like Thomas has become the expected starter every night.

Even with a rough night between the pipes, in no way is the veteran Thomas put to fault, according to Fluto Shinzawa of The Bruins Blog:

Claude Julien made it perfectly clear that by replacing Tim Thomas with Tuukka Rask, it was not a statement on his starter’s play through two periods. Thomas was hung out to dry after giving up three goals on 25 shots.

“It had nothing to do with Tim,” Julien said.

Until Rask can earn his first win of the year, the team will only use him to keep Thomas fresh.  Still with a 1.97 GAA in 45 games last year it should take a little while before we can just write the young Finnish netminder off as the backup.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Rask – 0-3-0 with a 3.47 GAA and .899 SV%

Thomas – 7-0-0 with a 1.04 GAA, .967 SV% and 3 SO

#5: Dan Ellis vs. Mike Smith

This tandem got off to an unexpected start with Smith taking the lead between the pipes.  It seems like the new brass wanted to see what they could get out of the centerpiece of the Brad Richards deal, despite his 34-47 record with the team and losing the starting job on numerous occasions.  So far, this season has been an odd one for the veteran Smith.  He became 4-0-0 without playing a respectable game and averaging well over three goals a game, then took his first loss in a game he almost shutout the Los Angeles Kings. His last start was just enough for us to question Ellis getting three starts a week.

On the other hand, Ellis has also been incredibly streaky.  After allowing three goals in only 15 minutes against the rival Florida Panthers, Ellis has only allowed 10 goals over his last five appearances, including stopping over 50 consecutive shots over parts of four games.  The former Nashville Predator seems to have the inside track but the Lightning can and have afforded to start both goalies depending on the hot hand.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Smith – 4-1-0 with a 3.17 GAA and .883 SV%

Ellis – 3-2-2 with a 2.46 GAA, .911 SV% and 1 SO

#4: Chris Mason vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Since his return last week, Pavelec has played well; losing both games but only allowing five goals over that span.  After his scary fainting spell, the young Slovakian netminder has bounced back and attempted to take the reigns back from Chris Mason.  If you remember correctly, coach Craig Ramsey felt that Pavelec earned the starting role with a solid pre-season and tried to get the team going with him between the pipes.

Mason, by contrast, has kept the team in games with his counterpart absent.  Through the team’s first 13 games, Mason has played in 11 of them and won six.  He knows what it takes to win as seen by his 57 wins over the past two years.  Back in July, the team expected Mason to take a lesser role and help groom Pavelec into a starting goalie.  So far he has done just that and everything they have asked him to do.  You can probably bet on this situation going back and forth all year.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Mason – 6-4-1 with a 3.45 GAA and .909 SV%

Pavelec – 0-1-1 with a 2.37 GAA and .934 SV%

#3: Brian Elliott vs. Pascal Leclaire

Last year’s playoffs made it very clear that the Ottawa Senators want Pascal Leclaire to be their starting goalie.  The team traded a promising forward in Antoine Vermette for the services of the French Canadien netminder and intended to get all the value they possibly could from their potential franchise goalie.  Unfortunately for them Leclaire has failed to play consistently or even stay healthy for a full season in a Senators uniform.

Enter Brian Elliott, a former 9th round pick of the team and the current holder of most consecutive wins in a Senators uniform (9).  After not making a start with Leclaire healthy he has since taken over the reigns as the starting goalie and held it with the return of his counterpart.  So far he has helped right the ship in Ottawa with two straight wins and the chance to win a third against the Canadiens tonight.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Elliott – 6-4-0 with a 2.99 GAA and .907 SV%

Leclaire – 0-2-1 with a 3.24 GAA and .903 SV%

#2: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Brent Johnson

Fleury played last night with the expectation that if he won he could play back-to-back contests.  Apparently the motivation to reclaim his starting job was not enough to win the game as the Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Anaheim Ducks.  To his credit, the Ducks hold a very healthy offense with two of the better scoring lines in the League.  However, letting too many pucks past him has been a concern all season, and one that is certainly growing.  The French Canadian netminder has only won one of his seven starts with a save percentage roughly 40 points lower than his career average.

His backup, Brent Johnson, has been much better by comparison.  Despite a tough loss against a very strong Dallas Stars offense, Johnson should get another try between the pipes.  The veteran netminder has accounted for five of their six wins, which on any other team would make him the go-to starting goalie.  However, with the history Fleury has with the team and his track record winning the Stanley Cup, he will get at least another year to sort out his inconsistencies.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Johnson – 5-1-1- with a 1.70 GAA and .941 SV%

Fleury- 1-6-0 with a 3.31 GAA and .861 SV%

#1: Mathieu Garon vs. Steve Mason

I’m not sure of one fantasy owner who does not recall the horror story that is Steve Mason.  After winning our hearts and the Calder Trophy with an amazing 10 shutouts in his first 61 games, Mason fell right off the map with an awful 3.05 GAA and .901 SV%.  This season he entered the year with a fresh start and despite giving up a soft goal in Sweden against the San Jose Sharks we somewhat believed in him.  At times he looks good– only seven goals allowed in his four wins.  At times he looks just as awful as last year, allowing more than four goals three times in eight starts.  Feast or famine to say the least and a frustrating player to have on your roster.

Then came Garon, who is currently undefeated and averaging under a goal per game.  In fact, he has won both of his last two starts via shutout and has the chance to win his third straight that way tonight.  As long as he continues to roll, there should be absolutely no reason to reinsert Mason back into the lineup. Back in 2005-2006 Garon posted back-to-back shutouts and won 31 games that season but eventually lost the starting job the following year.  Just keep that in the back of your mind as the 32-year-old is very streaky and a backup for a reason.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Garon – 4-0-0 with a .89 GAA and .966 SV%

Mason – 4-4-0 with a 3.30 GAA and .894 SV%

We hope you enjoyed our segment on starting goalies and fending off their backups as much as we enjoyed writing it.  Keep in mind it is a top five list and there are glaring omissions such as the New York Islanders tandem and the hot start of Cory Schneider. 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.

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