Top 5 early goalie controversies

Updated: October 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm by Alexander Monaghan

HM Corey Crawford vs. Marty Turco

Turco opened the season as the undisputed starting goalie for the defending Stanley Cup Champions.  Although he lost his first two outings he bounced back by stringing together four straight wins and silencing most critics.  His outing against the St. Louis Blues last night seemed somewhat pedestrian as he allowed four goals but it should be enough to fend off the young Crawford for now.  Over the past two seasons Turco has posted GAA of 2.72 and 2.81 so expect some up and down swings as the season progresses.

Crawford only has 10 NHL appearances to his credit and lost out on the backup position to Antti Niemi last season during pre-season.  In both of his starts he let in three goals but he looks like the Blackhawks’ plan for the future as of right  now even though he still needs to show why the team regarded him as a top prospect or took him so high originally.  In 45 games last season with the Rockford Ice Hogs, Crawford had a pedestrian .909 SV% and 2.67 GAA.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Crawford – 1-1-0 with a  3.03 GAA and .903 SV%

Turco – 4-2-1 with a  2.64 GAA and .921 SV%

#5 Antero Niittymaki vs. Antti Niemi

Niemi won his first game of the season, a tidy two-goal victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Sweden.  Since returning to the states he has let in four goals in each of his two games.  If the San Jose Sharks managed to actually score he probably would have more than one win at this point but the team’s struggles coupled with having a very capable backup in Niittymaki will create the controversy.

Niittymaki just won his first game and by comparison his statistics look much better.  Although he just let in just two goals, he drew criticism for a flub.  Despite the alarming save percentage of Niemi, there was a reason the team went out and acquired him.  They simply had too little faith in Niittmaki carrying the load, but probably will use him if he can remain the hot hand.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Niemi – 1-2-0 with a 3.71 GAA and .879 SV%

Niittymaki – 1-0-1 with a 2.47 GAA and .911 SV%

#4 Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Brian Boucher

Boucher is still searching for his first win of the season but will get the call tonight after his counterpart has lost two straight.  Last season, he was far from the answer losing his job on several occasions to Michael Leighton and taking the lesser end of the goaltending duo this season.  He will start tonight against the sputtering Toronto Maple Leafs, where he holds career marks of 1.69 GAA and a .926 SV%.

The man named Bob looked like the answer between the pipes until his last two games.  After expecting another solid outing against the Pittsburgh Penguins he let in four goals.  He then bounced back the next game by only letting in three against the Anaheim Ducks but taking the loss again.  Perhaps it was beginners luck or perhaps the League is now caught up to him but the Flyers are in serious trouble if he continues to play this way.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Boucher – 0-1-1 with a 2.49 GAA and .898 SV%

Bobrovsky – 2-2-0 with a 2.78 GAA and .901 SV%

#3 Brent Johnson vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

One look at the statistics below and it becomes apparent who should be the staring goalie in Pittsburgh.  Johnson has been absolutely lights out so far, only letting in six goals over four games and taking advantage of a revamped defense.  Is Johnson that good or Fleury that bad?  While Johnson’s save percentage has been excellent and Fleury’s incredibly poor it likely speaks more to how good the Pens can be with a real goalie opposed to a breakout by the veteran.

Fleury has truly struggled for a couple of years and as my colleague Patrick Davey pointed out yesterday.  His inability to win this year seemed to baffle people but his GAA the last two seasons was a mediocre 2.67 and 2.65.  This mediocrity has become the standard for his seasons as he should have fell much farther than he did in most Yahoo! drafts.  Despite the wins, I have avoided him like the plague in every league and I would recommend the same philosophy.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Johnson – 4-0-0 with a 1.49 GAA and .950 SV%

Fleury – 1-3-1 with a 3.25 GAA and .859 SV%

#2 Tim Thomas vs.Tuukka Rask

In this case it truly depends on who is starting, as the two tried to dupe us a couple of says ago.  Rask has not played since the first game of the season, where he allowed four goals and simply did not look like the same player as last season.  Having said that, his team also came out flat and failed to score until posting two markers from Nathan Horton, with the game already out of reach.  His head coach, Claude Julien, seems to enjoy goalie controversies so expect this one to run all season if the two manage to stay healthy.

Thomas, on the other hand, has been superb.  He took the reigns over between the pipes in the Czech Republic by shutting out the Phoenix Coyotes and then proceeded to steal the next three games.  So far he is undefeated, beating the Yotes, Washington Capitals twice and the New Jersey Devils which is certainly not poor competition.  After a decidedly poor season in which he lost his job to Rask, the former Vezina Trophy winner appears to be back in form.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Rask – 0-1-0 with a 4.01 GAA and .889 SV%

Thomas – 4-0-0 with a 0.75 GAA and .978 SV%

#1 Semyon Varlamov vs. Michal Neuvirth

Varlamov returned to the ice in relief of Neuvirth, only allowing one goal in most of the game.  He did not get a decision as Neuvirth already let in the game winning goal.  He then followed that up with a relatively poor showing against the Boston Bruins, whose offense simply refuses to be contained.  Varlamov will start tonight as the team tries to see what they have out of their top young netminder.

Neuvirth, on the other hand, has been clearly excellent before his outing against the Bruins.  In his four wins he has only allowed seven goals which defeats the whole “It doesn’t matter who’s in net as long as the Caps score five” belief.  If he can continue this strong play and fend Varlamov he could give the team a whole new dimension to their play– low scoring games. The team certainly could improve their record in that situation come playoff time.

2010-2011 Season Totals:

Varlamov – 0-1-0 with a 2.90 GAA and .896 SV%

Neuvirth –4-2-0 with a 2.45 GAA and .921 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.

Antero Niittymaki, Antti Niemi, Brent Johnson, Brian Boucher, Corey Crawford, Marc-Andre Fleury, Marty Turco, Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Sergei Bobrovsky