Tandem Levels of NHL Goalkeepers: The Good, the Bad and the Tough


The game has changed. And with that, the intricacies of the staff you need to succeed in the NHL lately.

For most teams, this is not necessarily the top of the checklist, but having a second option in a network that lies between impeccable service and legitimate reliability has gradually moved from luxury to necessity. limit. A good backup guardian in the match today is one of those things you do not really appreciate as long as you do not have it. at some point it might be too late.

So which teams did the best job of finding two reliable goalkeepers? Which teams have an imbalance in one direction or in the other? Who does not get good results from anyone this season?

Are the guardians of workhorses an endangered species?

With the modern advance of sports science in the hockey world, teams seem to have realized the dramatic effects that fatigue can have on goalkeeper performance. The time when Martin Brodeur and Miikka Kiprusoff had the habit of starting almost every game of their team is over.

Last season, no one started more than 67 games, and this season, Marc-André Fleury is the only one whose pace is close to 70. Most goalkeepers number one are now firmly anchored in the arena 60 to 65 appearances of a given season. Equally important, it is almost never asked to endure the load for both legs of a back-to-back scenario more than ever before.

We came so far on this particular topic that when the Edmonton Oilers played 73 games in 2016-17 (and 13 more playoff games in addition), they were publicly ridiculed as a malpractice on their part. . It is impossible to say how much this workload was responsible for it, but it has become a shell of itself ever since.

It is not because a new norm has been accepted that departures of warders must be divided, but that the transition has been smooth for all. The teams are still trying to find a way to maximize their chances of winning when their starter gets an evening without having anything to do with the hope that their promises of young guards promise to faint. time.

With so few chances for potential players to play, NHL teams generally tend to be cautious in selecting potential players, preferring instead to make them more representatives in the AHL. While this makes sense, the problem is that this has resulted in the recycling of suboptimal backups of veterans into the league, which means that there are many cases where teams use a goalkeeper because They are a known product although they are not necessarily the best. Locking option of the washer at their disposal. Given the narrowness of the ranking, the margin of error is extremely small, and losing extremely valuable points on these occasions is an extremely difficult pill to swallow.

Some teams have cleverly figured out how to take their cake and eat it too, while others have struggled to collect enough of these high quality departures. And then there are the teams that have some power struggle going on, where they might need to reconsider which is their best option. Here is a breakdown of this for each team, with the percentage of starter savings on the x-axis and the y-axis backups. Note that the "starter" tag of each team has been designated as the goalkeeper who has launched the most games this season:


The upper right quadrant is where you want to appear on this chart. There are six teams that have separated from the pack to have the benefit of a top-notch network, no matter who plays: the Bruins, the Penguins, the Stars, the Islanders, the Sabers and the Ducks.

We have already spoken enough about John Gibson's unprecedented feats in this space so far this season. Ryan Miller was actually very good himself in the limited appearances for the ducks before getting hurt, that's the reason they're here, but the Ducks are always more reliant on them than the others. Anaheim will go as far as Gibson can wear them this season, and not a step further than that.

the Stars and islanders are both currently sitting in a playoff spot or directly on the bubble largely because of their position on this chart. Despite the fact that both teams are around the threshold of 50% of the expected targets and the underlying shooting profiles are relatively pedestrian, the first thing they attach to is that they have quality goalkeepers every night, regardless of their size. net.

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    The partnership of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner in Iceland has been good for the fourth goal in 60 goals and the second in terms of percentage stop. The Dallas duo of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin have conceded the fifth-lowest goals and are currently posting the adjusted, the best-adjusted save percentage in the league. All four are north of .920 for the season as a percentage of savings, which is quite remarkable during a season in which the league average dropped below .910 for the first time in ten years. Whichever method was chosen, they were all fantastic and, apart from maybe Bishop, it is fair to say that none of them entered the season with any expectation whatsoever. or a hype.

    Being able to alternate the goalkeepers without any discernible setback has provided the two teams with a significant competitive advantage so far, and will certainly be even more valuable at the end of the season, when injuries and fatigue will start to make the victims even heavier. . the league.

    This may be of particular importance for the Sabers, who are asking Carter Hutton to slip into personally unexplored waters this season. He was excellent in his first season at Buffalo, but he also reached a career-high start at this level, with three months to come. He is 28 at the moment, making it his second record, behind the 34 starts he made for the Predators in 2013-14. You might argue that this means that he has fewer tire tracks than your typical 33 year-old goalkeeper, but it's still difficult to ask a goalkeeper to play as much as ever before, while still maintaining his current efficiency.

    the penguins are interesting because they have not taken the easiest way to get to this point. They entered the season waiting for Matt Murray to be their work supporter, but after he fell through the door with a .993 efficiency percentage in October and .850 in November, they had to turn to Casey DeSmith to wear them.

    DeSmith was surprisingly brilliant all year round, blocking 92.4 percent of the shots he faced and placing 10th at goals scored above the average at 7.12, just ahead of Pekka Rinne. . Since returning from injury in December, Murray has been much more like the goalkeeper than we expected in his dominant playoff races, stopping 96.3% of the throws he faced in eight games during that period. If he continues to play this way, he will surely take DeSmith back to the backup role that they had initially envisioned for him, which would be a big problem for Pittsburgh.

    Similarly, Bruins Presumably wants Tuukka Rask to be their starter, but until now he has been dominated by Jaroslav Halak. The 12.27 goals scored by Halak above average are second only to Gibson this season, as he and Greiss have shown that last year's downturn was more revealing to the team. Islanders before them only their own individual abilities. It will be fascinating to see if Rask and Halak continue to separate, and if a controversy between the guards eventually burst if Rask's role continues to deteriorate if Rask struggles again in the playoffs. In the end, this could be a questionable question because it is quite possible that Halak's help to endure the regular-season workload will produce a richer Tuukka Rask than it does. has been in the playoffs in the past.

    The bad

    Mike McKenna is the seventh goalie to start a game for the Flyers this season. Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images

    The lower left quadrant is the one in which you do not want to find yourself. It is not surprising then that this is the Flyers arrive. Brian Elliott was decent for them while he was healthy at first, but despite the fact that he technically started the most games for them, they had to split 30 of the other 43 games between six other guards.

    Cal Pickard's carousel, Anthony Stolarz, Carter Hart, Michal Neuvirth, Alex Lyon and Mike McKenna combined their efforts to block the astounding 87.4% of shots they faced at the time, making it The most important goalkeeper in the 30th place is why the Flyers went from the playoffs last season to 30th in the standings and 31st in the goal differential.

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    The same goes for the Senatorsbut in their case, it is difficult to blame the guards for all the blame because they have been plunged into such a terrible situation. The 37.1 shots per game they concede is not just the highest total in the league, it's the most porous defensive effort we've seen since the Washington Capitals expansion in 1974-75. , and the fifth worst of all time.

    They are so bad in defense that they make the Islanders look like last season at the Neutral Zone trapping the New Jersey Devils, which says a lot, as this team seemed to have no idea what it was like. She was doing in her own area. Still, the .882 percentage of the four unnamed Senators goaltenders Craig Anderson certainly does not help to cover those mistakes. It's hard to imagine that the situation could get worse in this respect, but if they end up trading one of the best defensive strikers in Mark Stone, that's exactly what's going to happen.

    We are fast approaching the commercial season and a name that will probably attract a lot of interest will be red wings Jimmy Howard entry. Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov have highlighted this summer's free scorers program, but since the Blue Jackets and Avalanche consider themselves playoff teams for the moment, it's unlikely we'll see one or the other as a bait of trade. With the Red Wings in the lottery, this makes Howard even more attractive to a competitor as the best rental option available. For his part, Howard has done wonders for its commercial value despite the lack of very strong support from him. It's been a long time since he has failed to be both healthy and in good health – he would have to go back to the shortened 2012-13 lockout campaign, while he had a .923 save percentage at the start of 42 of the team's 48 games – making this rebound particularly timely.

    Its save percentage of .916 does not lose the jaw, but it is important to take into account the context. In today 's league, it is well above average, but it' s particularly impressive considering the team ahead of him. Playing behind the same defense, Jonathan Bernier was a real mess for the Red Wings. The difference in performance between the two teams is one of the most important among all the registered players and substitutes of the league, which is perhaps not the worst thing in the world for Detroit.

    For a team that is firmly committed to the asset-gathering phase of its rebuilding, all it can get for Howard by the deadline is found money in itself. But beyond that, once they've traded it, they'll probably fall even lower in the rankings and improve their odds of playing the lottery because it was one of the rare elements that kept them competitive in the first half of the season. Bernier is in the books for another two years after this one is not particularly acceptable, but it will probably take two seasons before it is actually possible to resume the competition no matter what they do . Using this as an opportunity to refuel on high watershed peaks is not the worst way to rebuild things.

    The to be determined

    David Rittich entered the 2018-19 as an unknown product. But it clearly emerged as the best option for Flames in net. Bill Smith / NHLI via Getty Images

    Guards may be unstable and unpredictable at times, but it is terribly difficult to win systematically without this. As such, it is not particularly surprising to find that the league teams that have the most common points are usually in the net. Of the members of the upper echelon group, only two have legitimate questions to resolve; quite conveniently, they are both in the Pacific Division.

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    the flames are developing an intriguing case to be taken seriously, not only as a viable candidate to get out of their own division, but in fact to challenge the best teams of the supremacy of the Central for Western Conference. Only the Lightning have scored more goals than he has this season, and that's because his offensive attack led by the Hart Trophy candidate, Johnny Gaudreau, seems perfectly legitimate.

    However, to take the next step from an exciting team to a true suitor, they really have to hope that David Rittich can maintain this level of play and stop playing Mike Smith under any circumstances.

    Rittich has been great this season, definitely eliminating the starting lineup for the incumbent. It posts a .921 efficiency percentage in 25 games. His 6.42 goals saved above average rank 13th among the best defensemen in the league, which is actually reduced by the performance of the special teams, because his 10.42 goals saved at five against five are the second behind John Gibson . . The problem is that he had only 22 games in the NHL before this season and before that, all the data we had belonged to the very poor team of the Czech League and appearances limited to the AHL.

    In such cases, it is fair to be cautious and have reservations until a player like him continues to do so with a larger sample. To Rittich's credit, he passed all the required tests with flying colors. Nevertheless, whatever your level of self-confidence, it would be logical for the Flames to explore a more reliable option for the second goalkeeper to avoid exhausting him completely. For the little information we have about the quality of Rittich, we have many reasons to safely say that Mike Smith is cooked at that time.

    Of the 72 goalies this season, the -11.73 goals saved above average for Jake Allen are the only ones worse than Smith's (11.29). If you go back to the last two months of last season, when Smith came back from an injury, he only blocked 88.5% of the nearly 1,000 shots he faced during those 35 matches. He quickly became a handicap every time the Flames play it and the sooner they accept it, the better for everyone. For those who remember his years of glory, it is sad to see Smith flopper while pucks pass in front of him in the net this season.

    One last note: it is remarkable that the sharks are as high in the rankings as they are despite the goalkeepers they received from Martin Jones and Aaron Dell. San Jose ranks 31st with a save percentage as the team's five-on-five and 29th in all situations. In some contexts, the other teams that live in this neighborhood are the Senators, Flyers, Panthers and Blues, which shows how much goalkeeping is essential to the success of the team and how much the Sharks have dominated in every other facet of the match.

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    The way the Sharks managed to overcome the difficulties of their goalies and to avoid having them underwater all their season was admirable. Instead, they used an impressive number of shots to tip the pendulum in their favor. Their share of shots is 56.4%, making it a top in the league, rivaled in previous seasons with Stanley Cup champions such as the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Kings. Their five-to-five 55.2% target rate is the third behind the Hurricanes and Lightning, and their number-one advantage is seventh in goals scored every 60 minutes.

    The biggest driver of this success was Erik Karlsson, who has been playing at full speed for a month now. We've talked a lot about his series of points – 25 points in 14 games will do wonders to get people's attention – but in reality, he's always been like the rest of the season, even before the results are caught.

    With Karlsson on the ice this season at five-on-five, the Sharks controlled 60.1 percent of shot attempts, 58.6 percent of shots on goal, 54.4 percent of goals and 60.7 percent of goals. Now that he is quite third points for the defenders, it would not be surprising to see his name begin to be mentioned again in a widely open Norris Trophy race this season.

    But, in order for the Sharks to finally take this decisive step and win the Cup with their current core intact, they will need more Jones and / or Dell, or someone they'll have bought before the maturity of the transaction.