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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Best Goalie Duos & the Advantage That They Provide

I have been watching the goaltending pretty close and there have been some pleasant surprises, some disappointments, and also some confirmations that a few guys are making far too much money considering their performance while between the pipes.

Teams that have two goaltenders who are playing well have an advantage over other teams, and this is generally reflected in the standings. Furthermore, a great goalie duo can make a huge difference in the playoffs if there is an injury or illness to one of the goalies or if a goalie has a mental weakness in playing against a particular team—and Luongo comes to my mind when I talk about mental weakness. During the season when teams have to play back to back nights it is always preferable to have each goalie start a game rather than forcing too much work on the #1 goalie. Remember that Jonas Hiller suffered exhaustion last year and that cost the Ducks their season. After Hiller was out the Ducks made the huge mistake of not getting Ray Emery into the lineup right away. Emery is now with the Blackhawks and the Ducks are still treading water because they don’t have a proven back-up goalie who is good enough to hold the fort. Yes, I agree, shame on most of the Duck players for such a poor effort up until this month of January.     

When I rate goalies I look at their save percentage, the number of shutouts they have, their goals against average (GAA), number of games played, number of wins, how they handle themselves in games, and also how the team is doing in the standings. It is true that the number of wins can be misleading because a goalie might be playing 90 percent of the games for their team and subsequently you can expect them to be doing at least fairly well in the “Wins” category. Additionally, if a team is a powerhouse offensively a goalie can rack up some wins even if he is not playing well. The number of games played is a statistic I look at because it either provides more or less value to a goalie’s stats. After carefully considering all things it becomes clear which goalies deserve the “elite” designation.   

Okay, now the fun part of presenting the stats and my choices for the top three goaltender duos in the league.

As of the morning of January 24, 2012:

The goalies with the best Save Percentage are:  Tuukka Rask (Bruins) with a .943, Brian Elliot (Blues) with a .937, Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) with a .936, Jonathan Quick (Kings) with a .934, and Tim Thomas (Bruins) with a .933. I shall add that Martin Biron (Rangers) posts a .927 and Jaroslav Halak (Blues) a .918.  

The  Shutout leaders are:  Jonathan Quick (Kings) with 6, Brian Elliot (Blues) with 5, Jimmy Howard (Red Wings) with 5, Jaroslav Halak (Blues) with 4, Tim Thomas (Bruins) with 4, Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) with 4, Pekka Rinne (Predators) with 4, Tuukka Rask (Bruins) with 3, Ondrej Pavelec (Jets) with 3, Miikka Kiprusoff (Flames) also with 3, and a log jam of about 17 goalies with 2 shutouts. 

The Goals Against Average (GAA) leaders are:  Brian Elliot (Blues) with a 1.68, Tuukka Rask (Bruins) with a 1.69, Martin Biron (Rangers) with a 1.88, Jonathan Quick (Kings) with a 1.93, Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) with a 1.93, Jimmy Howard (Red Wings) with a 1.95, Jaroslav Halak (Blues) with a 2.04, Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Avalanche) with a 2.11, and Tim Thomas (Bruins) with a 2.12.

The Wins leaders are:   Jimmy Howard (Red Wings) with 30, Pekka Rinne (Predators) with 27, Marc-Andre Fleury (Penguins) with 25, Craig Anderson (Senators) with 25,  and Miikka Kiprusoff (Flames) with 22.

The Three Best Goalie Duos:

Well, I have decided that the competition is so close (this year being considered and not last year) that I am going to rate it a three-way tie!

Tie - Goalie Duo:  Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron have posted outstanding numbers and have their team tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference with the Bruins. Lundqvist continues to be outstanding, and in fact thus far this year he is posting the best numbers of his career. The big surprise is Biron because the 34 year old is easily achieving the best numbers of his career. In 12 games he has a .927 Save Percentage, 2 shutouts and a 1.88 GAA!

Tie - Goalie Duo:  Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot from the Blues are a large reason why the Blues are battling for the lead in the Western Conference. Elliot has the best GAA, the second best Save Percentage and an amazing 5 shutouts in just 22 games! Halak has 4 shutouts in the 26 games that he has played. Elliot’s performance does not surprise me because he was outstanding in the WCHA, improved each year in the AHL, and improved in his second year with the Senators. Last year with the Senators the entire team was to blame, but, the Senators decided to make the huge mistake of trading him to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Craig Anderson (a 30 year old!)—I like Craig but it was a poor trade for the Senators. The Avalanche almost totally “threw in the towel” during the last part of the year and Elliot was not the reason for their demise because the problem clearly existed before he got there; and, you can’t expect every player to do well right after a big move. However, in their utter insanity, the Avalanche did not sign Elliot and he was picked up by the Blues for $600 000 on one year contract. Well, due to his outstanding play this year the Blues recently signed him for a $3 600 000 extension over two years—a steal in my opinion considering what Bryzgalov and Luongo are making! Elliot is rightfully an All-Star this year.

Tie - Goalie Duo:  Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask from the Bruins are tough competitors. Thomas did not have his best start and he recently let in 5 goals against the Flyers. Rask is the best in the league for save percentage, and Thomas sits in fifth place. Thomas has 4 shutouts in 30 games while Rask has 3 shutouts in 17 games. This goalie duo is part of the reason why the Bruins are tied with the Rangers for first in the Eastern Conference, both having 64 points in 46 games. Only the Red Wings have more points at 67, but they have played 3 more games than the Bruins and Rangers. However, I can’t help but say that I don’t care for some of the cheap shots that Thomas takes and Rask needs to learn how to control his temper.

Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier of the Kings failed to make my top three due to Bernier’s bad season thus far. The Kings have underplayed Bernier this year and I feel that this has prevented him from being at the top of his game. As a 23 year old his development has been hindered. The entire LA team has been dragging along for several weeks and not posting too many goals, and this is why they are overplaying Quick. Obviously, Quick is playing outstanding, leading the league in shutouts and being in the top four in both Save Percentage and GAA; but, I would give Bernier a little more ice time and ask the team to work harder.  

TJ Stanley