Throughout this week’s training camps, several goaltending battles were waged as each masked man tried to prove that they are capable of being the starter. There is a good chance that these battles could end up continuing for at least the beginning portion of the 48-game schedule.
Let’s now take a look at which teams have two goaltenders who will either share duties or have one guy play his way to a surefire No. 1.
St. Louis Blues: Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott
For several years in the 2000’s, the St. Louis Blues had trouble finding consistent goaltending.
Now, they have two good goaltenders that both played a very big part in helping the Blues to be one of the best teams in the NHL last season. Going into this shortened season, these two goaltenders, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott will battle it out for supremacy in the Blues’ crease.
In 46 games last season, Halak went 26-12-7 with a 1.97 GAA, a .926 save percentage and six shutouts, showing once again that he could put up solid numbers as a starting netminder. Unfortunately for Halak, he hurt his ankle in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks and never returned to the net for the rest of the postseason, a situation that he excelled in with the Montreal Canadiens in the 2009-10 season.
On the other hand, the Blues also have Elliott, who was an All-Star last season. Elliott finished with a 23-10-4 record, posted a league low 1.56 GAA, a league high .940 save percentage and picked-up 9 shutouts along the way.
In the playoffs, however, Elliott was inconsistent and was the losing goaltender in the four-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings. If Elliott wants the starter’s position, he will need to show that he can come up big when his team needs him the most.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky
After the 2008-09 season, everyone in Columbus thought that netminder Steve Mason was the savior and the man that would lead the Columbus Blue Jackets into the playoffs year after year.
Things have not turned out that way as Mason has struggled the last three seasons with extremely inconsistent play, confidence problems and even not knowing what kind of equipment he is allowed to wear. Now, the pressure is on as the team finally has a goaltender that might be able to wrestle the starting position away from Mason.
That netminder is Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets acquired Bobrovsky from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for three draft picks in hopes that he could put pressure Mason to make him better or furthermore, give the Blue Jackets a better chance to win hockey games than Mason does.
Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer and Ben Scrivens
Going into this off-season, goaltending was the topic of concern and intrigue for the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially with all of the Roberto Luongo talk out there.
Here we are with the season about to begin and still no Luongo, which means that the Leafs will go with a tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Both guys are young netminders who have some NHL experience, with Reimer having more than Scrivens.
Reimer burst onto the Leafs’ scene at the end of the 2010-11 season and appeared to be the guy that the Leafs would lean on to be the netminder to get them into the postseason. Due to injuries, however, Reimer only played in 34 games last season and went 14-14-4 and posted inconsistent numbers with a 3.10 GAA, a .900 save percentage and 3 shutouts.
In 12 games with the Leafs last season, Scrivens was not what the Leafs were looking for (4-5-2, 3.13 GAA and a .903 save percentage), but it certainly was not all of his fault. He proved that with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (AHL) as he took them all the way to the Calder Finals and went 11-6 with a 1.92 GAA, a .935 save percentage and 3 shutouts.
Washington Capitals: Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth
In a shortened season, it is going to be important to have two good goaltenders that are both ready to play and win hockey games.
The Capitals have that with their tandem of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth. Both have regular season experience and postseason experience but neither has been able to grab on the starting goaltending position and run with it.
Holtby is coming off a year in which he starred for the team in the playoffs. Holtby got the Capitals to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals and was stellar in going 7-7 with a 1.95 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Holtby is also coming off a very successful stint with the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
Neuvirth was inconsistent between the pipes last season while sharing the net with Tomas Vokoun (now with the Pittsburgh Penguins). Neuvirth went 13-13-5 with a 2.82 GAA, a .903 save percentage and 3 shutouts and did not play one game in the postseason after playing in 9 of them the season before.
On Friday, coach Adam Oates confirmed that Holtby would get the start Saturday.
Edmonton Oilers: Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin
With the likes of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Justin Schultz, the Edmonton Oilers could end up being a very dangerous team up front this season.
In between the pipes, however, no one knows who will be the man to get the Oilers back into the postseason for the first time since they were in the Stanley Cup Final in the 2005-06 season. It will come down to Devan Dubnyk and the veteran Nikolai Khabibulin.
Dubnyk, 26, had a pretty solid season for the league’s worst team last year. Dubnyk went 20-20-3 with a 2.67 GAA, a .914 save percentage and 2 shutouts. The Regina native was also impressive with Team Canada at the recent Spengler Cup tournament.
Khabibulin, 35, has struggled with both consistency and injuries over the last few seasons. With the Oilers, he is known for getting off to great starts but slows down considerably after the first two months of the season, which could end up hurting the Oilers’ playoff chances should he be given the crease. Last season, Khabibulin went 12-20-7 with a 2.65 GAA, a .910 save percentage and 2 shutouts.
Khabibulin is coming off an injury, so it’s young Dubnyk’s job to lose.
New York Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov and Rick DiPietro
It seems like every single season, the New York Islanders always have questions when it comes to their goaltending.
It is no different this season as both Evgeni Nabokov and often-injured Rick DiPietro are battling it out for the Islanders’ crease. In this particular case, it is a weird situation.
Nabokov, 37, joined the Islanders last season and played quite well as the team’s starting goaltender. In 42 games, Nabokov went 19-18-3 with a 2.55 GAA, a .914 save percentage and two shutous behind a very young Islanders’ defence.
Everyone knows the story regarding DiPietro. He is often injured, does not get into a lot of games and yet, is being paid a ton by the team. Will this season be any different, especially with such a short schedule and many games in many nights?
Vancouver Canucks: Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo
The Vancouver Canucks have been a big part of the discussion when it comes to goaltending.
Right now, the team has two starting netminders in Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo. While there have been many trade rumors and buzz surrounding Luongo, he is still with the team and still part of the club’s goaltending tandem.
Luongo, 33, obviously has more experience than Schneider when it comes to the regular season and postseason and also has solid numbers in both areas. In 55 games last season, Luongo went 31-14-8 with a 2.41 GAA, a .919 save percentage and 5 shutouts but he struggled in the postseason in Games 1 and 2 of the first round against the Kings, which led to him being replaced by Schneider. Lungo’s name continues to be thrown out as trade bait.
Meanwhile, Schneider, 26, wants and deserves a real shot to be the team’s starter. In 33 games last season, Schneider went 20-8-1 with a 1.96 GAA, a .937 save percentage and 3 shutouts. Schneider also played well in three postseason games (1-2, 1.31 GAA, and a .960 save percentage) in the Canucks’ opening round loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Schneider is the confirmed No. 1 guy here, but what if he gets off to a shaky start?