Calgary’s goalies symptomatic of league-wide performance swings

Flames goalie Chad Johnson talks about his performance and the Flames' win over the Blue Jackets.

Chad Johnson is making away with the No. 1 job in Calgary, with a pair of shutouts in his past five games and a save percentage that has grown to .922.

Of course, it was not supposed to go this way when Flames general manager wheeled goalie Brian Elliott out of St. Louis at the draft, then landed the UFA Johnson on July 1. Treliving went to the Buffalo draft intent on fixing his leaky crease in Calgary, and wisely traded for a ’tender with only one year left on his contract in Elliott, sending a second round pick to St. Louis. (Calgary will owe the Blues a third-rounder if they re-sign Elliott).

But Elliott and Johnson are prime examples of what can happen with goaltenders in today’s game. Here’s a look at five goaltenders who have impressed this season, and five whose stats have gone the other way.

Five Up

Chad Johnson
It’s easy to forget that Johnson was the predominant goalie in Buffalo last season, as Robin Lehner nursed a high-ankle sprain through the much of the 2015-16 season. But Johnson’s year-end numbers — .920 save percentage, 2.30 goals against average — were excellent on a Sabres team that finished 25th in offence and missed the playoffs.

Treliving orchestrated a competitive situation in Calgary, with two pending-UFA goalies in Johnson and Elliott, and so far Johnson is running away with the contest. He’s running a 2.08 GAA and a .922 save percentage — all behind a struggling Flames defence — 22 games into Calgary’s season. Toss in the fact that re-signing Elliott will cost the Flames a third-round pick, and it’s easy to see Johnson back in Flames silks next season.

Devan Dubnyk
Unfortunately for one of the nicest guys currently strapping on the pillows in the NHL, Dubnyk finds himself in these “up and down” lists annually.

Consistency has been hard for the former Kamloops Blazer to embrace, but this season’s numbers — 1.55 GAA and a .948 save percentage — are both tops in the National Hockey League among goalies with more than 10 games played. And they’re a sight better than last year’s stats, when Dubnyk had a .918 save percentage and a 2.33 GAA. At age 30, you wonder if he’ll ever be able to grab on to that top-end game and not let go?

Jimmy Howard
Howard’s game fell into the Detroit River last season with a career-low .906 save percentage and a seat on the pine, as unheralded Czech Petr Mrazek stole his gig in Motown.

Today Howard has the third best save percentage in the league at .943, and is in the process of taking that starting job away from Mrazek.

“He looks real repeatable,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Howard’s game. “It doesn’t look like anything that he can’t keep doing. He’s put the work in to make himself better and prepared and ready to jump through the window of opportunity.”

Cam Talbot
Talbot’s stats from the start of last season through Nov. 25, 2015: 3-8-0, .890 save percentage, 3.09 GAA.

His stats through Nov. 25 this season: 11-7-1, .919 save percentage, 2.50 GAA. That’s a massive improvement that has allowed his team to vastly improve, with the Oilers sitting first in the Pacific Division on Black Friday.

It should be said that Talbot was very good from about Christmas on last season, but his shaky start helped the Oilers to bury themselves by U.S. Thanksgiving. Come American Turkey Day this season, the Oilers have their team goals against down to a mid-league level 2.57 — unseen numbers in Edmonton in a long, long while.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Last season Bobrovsky was that $7.425 million goalie whose game was killing the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is the second highest paid goalie in the NHL, behind only Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million AAV), so this year’s stats are expected, frankly.

Still, Bobrovsky’s .929 save percentage and a 10-5-1 record have given the Blue Jackets a chance this season, something he didn’t give them in 20-15-16.


Brian Elliott
Have to start with Elliott, a guy I saw give the St. Louis Blues three excellent playoff rounds last spring. I am as surprised as anyone that he has disappointed in Calgary this fall, with numbers that just have to be better: .882 save percentage and 3.42 GAA.

Elliott’s save percentage is dead last among goalies with 10 games played.

Steve Mason
The Philadelphia netminder’s save percentage has plummeted from .918 last season to .893 this fall. The Flyers and goaltending. It is a never-ending saga, is it not?

Kari Lehtonen
This is more a career achievement award, than a one-year swoon. Lehtonen is what I call “an eight period goalie.” Some time during his third start, he implodes. He’s stopping pucks this season at an .884 clip, all for a mere $6 million in salary.

Semyon Varlamov
OK, I’ll admit it: I’ve never loved this guy as a goalie, and can not fathom how he is making $6 million as the 12th highest paid goalie in the game. But his pedestrian save percentage last season (.914) has lost .10 points. No wonder why the Avs are off to another less than spectacular start.

Ben Bishop
With the expansion draft looming, Bishop has thus far made GM Steve Yzerman’s decision easy, when he decides who to keep. Bishop is 7-6 in Tampa’s nets with a .908 save percentage, while Andrei Vasilevskiy has won six of his eight starts and has a .951 save percentage.

The mission for Yzerman: Trade one of his goalies — read: Bishop — before the expansion draft, so he doesn’t lose the asset for nothing in return.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes a pad-save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

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