As a stupid goalie myself, I pay a little more attention to goaltenders as compared to other positions. While everyone in the world did a prediction on how the teams would finish, I’m going to make some more goaltending related predictions in grading each teams’ goaltending. And with that brief intro, let’s get on with it.
Grade Range – This will be the range of goaltending effectiveness possible. For example, a team with a young, talented goaltender who has a nobody for a backup would have a range of maybe D to A-, while a team with two veteran goalies who are solid, but not great, would probably get a B- to B+. Note that this is not a guess at their stats, just how well they play. A good goalie on a great team might have better stats than a great goalie on a bad team.
Risk – How likely the grade will be at the low end as compared to the high end.
My Prediction of Grade – My guess of how the goaltending will be this season, from deep within my head. Remember though, I’m a goalie. I let people shoot pucks at me for a living. I’m clearly damaged goods.
Today will be the Pacific.
Goaltenders: Jonas Hiller, Curtis McElhinney
Grade Range: A- to C-
Notes: Hiller is a solid goaltender who stole the spot from everyone’s favorite manatee, J.S. Giguere, last year. However, he does play a block first, react second style as taught by old goalie coach Francois Allaire, which during the days of incredib(ly dirty) defense in Anaheim, worked. However since the trade of the caveman and retirement of Scott Niedermayer, I doubt this style will be as effective. And, oh yeah, hopefully he doesn’t get hurt, because you have the definition of a “nobody” as your backup.
Goaltenders: Kari Lehtonen, Andrew Raycroft
Grade Range: E to B+
Notes: Kari Lehtonen, supposedly he’s great, but noone knows because he’s been injured for his entire career. Now if Jesus returns this year to keep him healthy, he’s a talented athletic goaltender in the mold of Kiprusoff, who can win (and sometimes lose) games for his team. Now since it isn’t 2012 and the end of the world, he’ll likely go 10 games before suffering a season ending injury. Backing him up is Andrew Raycroft, who somehow keeps getting a job in the NHL. He did put up decent numbers last year when Lou was hurt, but he’s also known as possibly the worst goaltender still playing, so the jury is out on that one. Quick but very technically unsound, it could be a long year in Dallas. Plus, doesn’t it look like he’s fat?
Prediction: B if Kari makes it through the season, D if he doesn’t.
Los Angeles Kings
Goaltenders: Jonathon Quick, Jonathon Bernier
Grade Range: C to A-
Notes: Both goaltenders on this team are young and both are talented. Quick ironically isn’t as quick as Bernier, but he’s got two years on the rookie and is very flexible and plays a solid reaction game. If he falters, Bernier might have a solid chance at rookie of the year. He’s quick as can be and plays a very technically sound game, a la Fleury. Still, he’s a rookie and noone knows if he can handle the pressure.
Goaltenders: Ilya Bryzkdoifjaifslov, Jason LaBarbera
Grade Range: B to A
Notes: Bryzgalov is a quick, technically sound goaltender who deservingly competed for the Vezina last season. He doesn’t seem to get hurt and can win games on his own. His only problem is that, when off his game, he occasionally lets up weak goals when he slinks back into his net and doesn’t move his body toward the puck. LaBarbera is the definition of a backup, but can do the job well enough.
San Jose Sharks
Goaltenders: Antti Niemi, Antero Niittymaki
Grade Range: D+ to B+
Notes: Nabokov was shipped out of town for being too unreliable when it came down to it. What they needed was a goalie who was consistently solid, but unspectacular, like Dan Ellis or Chris Mason. What do they do? They replace him with Niemi, a young goaltender who can make a big save, but who’s sloppy style makes him completely rely on his equipment, thus causing more than an occasional bad goal, and Niittymaki, who might be one of the most skilled, yet most inconsistent goaltenders in the league. I was stunned when they signed Niitty and still underwhelmed with the Niemi signing. They end up at best even to last year and I can’t see anything resembling a silver cup in their future.