We’re two weeks into the season and it’s time to take a look at who’s hot and who’s not between the pipes. There are big names in both categories that we didn’t expect to be in either place, like Cam Ward.
We all know Craig Anderson, Carey Price and Tukka Rask are all off to fantastic starts and are winning close games. But they’re not the only hot netminders right now.
Roberto Luongo won last night in overtime to move to 3-0-2 and make the Canuck faithful ask Corey Who? It’s hard to say if his performance is going accelerate trade rumors about him or silence them and keep him solidly in Vancouver for the rest of the season.
Out of the goalies on the top teams in the Western Conference, Corey Crawford looks to be the most legitimate out of all of them. He’s 5-0-2 this season with a 1.66 GAA and .934 save percentage which are sparkling numbers. The key stat out of everything on Crawford is six. Crawford has been in four games where the outcome was decided by one goal and two others that went to the shootout. He’s not getting much for a margin of error but is still getting the job done in net for Chicago.
Cam Ward of Carolina picked up his second win last night but it still a major red flag for me in net. In watching some of the highlights of the Hurricanes, I’m still seeing defensemen standing still, failing to finish checks and flat out getting beat. Ward can’t control what’s going on in front of him but it’s sure making his job a whole lot harder.
The other thing making his chances for success worse are his team’s ineptitude on the power play (6-of-40) and continually having to kill off penalties. When Ward starts, the Hurricanes have been shorthanded at least four times a game in each of his games. The team in front of him is making his life miserable and Ward clearly can’t get it done on his own. Ward seems to be at his best on breakaways when his defensemen can’t get in the way and make it more difficult for him.
And they’re in the midst of a six-game road trip and are getting a little breather before playing four games in six nights.
Ryan Miller of Buffalo is someone I’m finding to be rather puzzling. He continues to bleed goals at the rate of four per night in each of his last four games. Buffalo, like Carolina, can’t rely on one guy–Thomas Vanek–to carry the load for them every night.
It’s not much better for the Sabres as they start a run of five games in seven nights with travel as they alternate road then home games during this stretch. The opposition is also brutal too with Ottawa, Montreal, the Islanders, Boston and Ottawa on deck. Add to that another tilt with Boston and one with Pittsburgh and you have an absolutely brutal run between now and the 17th for Miller.
Ondrej Pavelec of Winnipeg is going through the same pains as Miller. On their recent three-game road trip, Pavelec and the Jets crashed and burned as he allowed four goals to Montreal, six to Florida and five to Tampa Bay before getting yanked. The Jets are last in the league in goals allowed and maybe some home cooking could fix that. They have five of their next six games at home before ending February on a five-game, five-city, seven-night trip.
Winnipeg needs to dial it back on the penalties as they’ve been shorthanded at least five times in each of those losses. Two of the three first-period goals he allowed were when the Jets were down two men. It puts any goaltender up against the wall when you find yourself in that situation.
Martin Brodeur of New Jersey has also crumbled as of late. He allowed three goals in his first three games but has allowed 14 goals in his last three starts. It makes you wonder if the demand of the short season is impacting him negatively at age 40.
It’s not going to get easier this week for him or the Devils. They face the Rangers, Tampa Bay and have a home-and-home with Pittsburgh before the end of Sunday. Yikes.
The Rest of the Padded Men
Antti Niemi is 6-0-1, 1.80, .936 but with a different flavor compared to Crawford. Niemi’s regulation wins have been by three, three, two and three goals. He’s 2-1 in the shootouts this season. Niemi is prone to streaks in both directions and it makes me worry about how much longer he can keep this up. The San Jose offensive explosion is slowing down somewhat as well. If Niemi has a bad night and gets shelled, how will he respond? Will he get over it and rebound nicely or go into a deep, downward spiral?