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in NEUES AUS ÖSTERREICH - BERICHTE AUS ÖSTERREICH 20.01.2020 09:04
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With the trade deadline passed and the stretch run to the NHL season beginning, its time for Scott Cullens latest update to the NHL Awards races. Corey Linsley Super Bowl Jersey . On one hand, there are familiar names throughout, with previous Hart, Norris, Selke and Jack Adams winners named as best through three quarters of this season. However, as we get more games in the file, the leading candidates begin to separate from the rest of the class. Its not to say that others cant mount a strong finish to alter the outcomes, but as the season gets closer to the end, there isnt as much wiggle room. Anyway, here are my picks for awards through first three quarters of this season: HART TROPHY Winner: Sidney Crosby, C, PittsburghRunners-up: Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim; Alex Ovechkin, RW, WashingtonComment: Its no surprise that a healthy Crosby is in position to win the award as the leagues Most Valuable Player, because hes 14 points up in the scoring race and playing at the level to which weve become accustomed, when hes in the lineup. This year, he hasnt missed a game, and that is the biggest reason that Crosby at the forefront of the MVP discussion. Getzlaf is scoring at a career-best rate of 1.17 points per game, leading the team that sits on top of the standings. While his possession numbers are solid, Getzlafs line has been particularly fortunate in terms of shooting percentage, which leads to a dominant goal differential (57 for, 25 against) when Getzlaf is on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Its not the kind of thing that can be sustained long-term (as in year-over-year) but, this year, it puts him in contention for the Hart. I recognize there may not be a lot of observers that would consider Ovechkin among the most valuable in the league this year, yet I do despite his deficiencies. Hhes so far ahead of the rest of the league as a goal-scorer, that I cant ignore that contribution. Right now, Ovechkin is on pace for a 57-goal season. Second-place Phil Kessel is on pace for a 42-goal season. The last player to win the goal-scoring race by 15 goals or more was Brett Hull, in 1991-1992, when Hull scored 70 and Kevin Stevens scored 54. (Incidentally, in 1990-1991, Hull scored 86 goals, 35 more than a trio of players -- Theo Fleury, Cam Neely and Steve Yzerman -- tied for second.) Its just not that often that the leagues top goal-scorer is that far ahead of the field and, this year, Ovechkin is. Additionally, while he does plenty of damage on the power play, Ovechkin also leads the league with 26 even-strength goals, so its not all one-timers from the faceoff dot with the man advantage. Looking beyond those three, Kessel, Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Toews are among others who could warrant consideration. NORRIS TROPHYWinner: Duncan Keith, ChicagoRunners-up: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa; Victor Hedman, Tampa BayComment: This season hasnt been all that different from Duncan Keiths 2010 Norris Trophy-winning campaign. Hes played his typically-strong two-way game, though he is down more than three minutes per game compared to his peak playing time, and has added more offence this season, scoring at the second-best rate of his carerr (0.79 points per game). There are some that decry the play of the Senators Erik Karlsson, because hes not a hard-hitting block of granite on the blueline and thats their vision of a defenceman, but Karlsson is a game-changer. Hes a rare defenceman that can drive his teams offence and his negative plus-minus is more a function of relatively bad luck on percentages (both shooting and save) when hes on the ice. After Keith and Karlsson, there are a number of worthy candidates, with my preferred choice being Victor Hedman, who has been great, while adding an offensive component that is far ahead of his previously established levels. Im not sure that Team Sweden is on board with this vote, but thats their prerogative. Some familiar names -- Shea Weber, P.K. Subban and Alex Pietrangelo -- are also viable candidates, close enough that a really strong finish could alter the outcome. VEZINA TROPHYWinner: Ben Bishop, Tampa BayRunners-up: Tuukka Rask, Boston; Semyon Varlamov, ColoradoComment: As a 27-year-old who had played 45 career games coming into this season, Bishop has been a major surprise, a rock for a Lightning team that has maintained its playoff position despite missing Steven Stamkos for a couple of months. Rask has pretty much always been a top puck-stopper, with a .929 save percentage over the past three seasons, and hes played a career-high 46 games this year, handling a number one workload over a full season for, really, the first time in his career. It hasnt been a smooth and steady road to the top for Varlamov, who has rebounded from a career-low .903 save percentage last season to post a career-best .925 save percentage this season. That might be a matter of arbitrary end-points, with Varlamovs real performance level somewhere between those two extremes but, for this season, his numbers warrant award consideration. If not Varlamov, Carey Price and Jonathan Bernier have both had strong seasons, strong enough that an impressive finish could push them into the discussion. CALDER TROPHYWinner: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Runners-up: Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay; Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Comment: Having set the record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old rookie, MacKinnon is already looking like the kind of game-breaking skilled forward that teams hope to get with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Nothing like having a great pedigree and living up to it. MacKinnons closest challenger may be Johnson, an undrafted, 5-foot-9, 23-year-old who has simply scored wherever hes played and when Stamkos got hurt, Johnson took on more responsibility and continued to play at a high level. Its not easy for a teenage defenceman to step into the NHL and consistently play with poise, but dont tell that to Maatta, who has been a revelation for the Penguins. Injuries on the Pittsburgh blueline have forced the Penguins to use Maatta more than might have been initially anticipated, but hes risen to the challenge. Bruins power play quarterback Torey Krug and Johnsons left winger, Ondrej Palat, are other contenders. SELKE AWARDWinner: Patrice Bergeron, BostonRunners-up: David Backes, St. Louis; Jonathan Toews, ChicagoComment: This isnt an easy award to hand out, though there are some consistent performers that tend to be in consideration year after year. Heres a list of centres that face a decent level of competition yet still have strong possession stats. In addition to Bergeron, Backes and Toews, who have been at the top of my lists for past couple seasons at least, Anze Kopitar, Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Steen are first-rate two-way performers that warrant attention. JACK ADAMS AWARDWinner: Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Runners-up: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis; Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay. Comment: It can be difficult to gauge exactly what a coachs role is in a teams performance, so there is some guess work involved here. One of the factors I try to take out of the equation, or at least minimize in importance, is goaltending, because great goaltending can mask all manner of shortcomings. Anyway, Im not sure that Bruce Boudreau has done anything revolutionary with the Ducks that allows them to score on such a high percentage of their shots, but getting strong contributions from so many throughout the lineup has to be considered in some way a reflection of Boudreaus approach. Oh, yeah, the Ducks are also first place in the standings, so he has that working for him too. The St. Louis Blues play such a relentless, grinding game that Im inclined to credit a coach that can keep his team playing that style so effectively. Enter, Ken Hitchcock. Admittedly, Jon Cooper has the benefit of outstanding goaltending, thanks to Ben Bishop, but his team has survived without Steven Stamkos and has done so with a lineup full of young, inexperienced players playing significant roles. For that, Cooper gets my nomination. There are many other qualified candidates. Patrick Roys Avalanche are exceeding expectations, Mike Yeo and Mike Babcock have managed to get through significant injuries and Claude Julien keeps the Bruins rolling with a steady spproach; all of these coaches deserve credit for their work behind the bench this season. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Jaire Alexander Super Bowl Jersey .One day after winning her record 63rd World Cup race, Vonn posted to her Facebook account Tuesday that she was happy Woods surprised her by coming to the race, and that she felt terrible that his tooth got knocked out. Jason Spriggs Super Bowl Jersey .A. Happ? Happs seven wins are second on the staff to Mark Buehrles 10. Win-loss record is an antiquated stat, sure, but win total is generally an indication of a pitchers ability to work deep into games, enough to be personally affected by the result. http://www.packersonlineteamstore.com/aaron-jones-youth-jersey.html . - Erick Torres scored his 10th goal of the season on a stunning volley, and Chivas USA edged 10-man Real Salt Lake 1-0 on Saturday night.Goaltending is massively important to determining which teams win and lose in the NHL, yet its incredibly difficult to predict. Even if you expect regression to take place, bringing down the highest highs and raising the lowest lows, there are still seasons that seem to come out of nowhere, either good or bad. Anyway, Ive taken a look at the goaltending situation, for all 30 teams, to this point in the season. ANAHEIM DUCKS When the season began, it looked as though Jonas Hiller would be hard-pressed to split time with Viktor Fasth in the Ducks net, but thats not how the season has played out, at all. Hiller, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end and could have been a viable trade chip under different circumstances, has been a solid, if not spectacular presence in net for Anaheim, posting a .914 save percentage. Fasth, on the other hand, hasnt played since suffering a lower-body injury November 18. He appears to be nearing a return but, having played only five games this season, it would be shocking for the Ducks to turn to Fasth as the starter down the stretch and into the postseason. If he plays great, perhaps he can take the job, but theres not a great deal of time left to make that . In Fasths absence, 24-year-old Danish rookie Frederik Andersen has established his credentials an NHL goaltender, posting a .933 save percentage in 16 games. The interesting part for the Ducks, at least theoretically, is whether they would be comfortable going with Andersen and/or Fasth down the stretch, allowing them to still market Hiller, but contending teams tend not to clear out their starting goaltenders unless making an obvious upgrade. Well, that and Ducks GM Bob Murray has made it clear that Hillers not going anywhere. That leaves Andersen ticketed for the AHL, where top prospect John Gibson has been handling the starters workload, when Fasth is ready to return. BOSTON BRUINS The Bruins situation in net is very clearly defined. Even with a slight slump recently, 26-year-old Tuukka Rask has a .930 save percentage and his .928 save percentage since 2009-2010 ranks as the best among goaltenders with at least 150 games played. A positive development for the Bruins has been that 27-year-old Chad Johnson, who had played 10 NHL games prior to this season, has fared well in the backup role, with a .918 save percentage in 14 appearances. Hes not a threat to Rasks playing time and is solid enough when given the chance to play. BUFFALO SABRES A pending unrestricted free agent, 33-year-old Ryan Miller has been the Sabres starting goaltender since 2005-2006 and while Buffalo is struggling this season, Miller is having one of his best years; his .926 save percentage is a career-best, behind only 2009-2010 when he won the Vezina Trophy as leagues top goaltender. Considering his age and contract status, Miller is a prime candidate to be moved, which will shake up the goaltending on two teams -- Millers new team as well as the Sabres, who will need a replacement. Jhonas Enroth, the 25-year-old backup, might benefit immediately should Miller move on, but Enroths track record, which included a respectable .912 save percentage in 70 career games, isnt enough to think that hes the inevitable heir apparent. That could open the door for an external candidate (potentially in the summer) or prospect Matt Hackett, though Hackett currently has a career-low .906 save percentage in the AHL. CALGARY FLAMES Few teams are as questionable in goal as the Flames. Karri Ramo came over from the KHL, where he had been very good for four seasons, and he struggled early, posting an .890 save percentage through the end of November. Its been better since -- .913 in 17 games since the beginning of December -- maybe enough to warrant NHL employment as a backup, but hardly anything to assure a future starting spot for the 27-year-old. 27-year-old Reto Berra had an okay run for seven games in December, but has been subpar otherwise, with an .893 save percentage an indication that hes not ready for more responsibility. If any team needs a goaltending upgrade, its the Flames and, with a new general manager, there isnt any loyalty due to those in-house. However, if the Flames are positioning for a draft pick -- and, by all rights, they should be -- there is no need to worry about that upgrade until the summer. CAROLINA HURRICANES Injuries have been a problem for 29-year-old Cam Ward, limiting him to 36, of a possible 101, games over the past two (partial) seasons. Not only that, but Ward hasnt played particularly well when he has been in the lineup. Among goaltender to play at least 30 games since the start of last season, Wards .901 save percentage ranks 41st out of 46. Wards inconsistency and injuries present opportunities for others. Anton Khudobin (who ranks eighth on that same list of 46 goaltenders) has been very good for Carolina and the 27-year-old could be in line to handle more work, but hes played a career-high 16 NHL games this season, and has played a total of 37 games in his career, so its not easy to hand the reins over to him. The pleasant surprise for the Hurricanes, when Ward and Khudobin were injured earlier in the season, was the play of 27-year-old Justin Peters, who struggled last year, but has a .919 save percentage in a career-high 21 games this year. Peters will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, which could make him a trade candidate, though his uneven track record (.904 save percentage in 68 career games) will limit the potential return. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS Last seasons Stanley Cup win gives Corey Crawford a measure of job security, which is good for him because hes missed time due to injury and hias .911 save percentage isnt anywhere near last seasons .926 mark. Crawford has played well enough since returning from injury (.918 save percentage in January), but the Blackhawks have struggled as a whole this month. Crawford was supposed to have veteran Nikolai Khabibulin as his backup this year, but Khabibulin has played just four games and is out for the year following shoulder surgery. The injuries suffered by Crawford and Khabibulin created an opportunity for 24-year-old Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, who played pretty well through the end of December, but his numbers have slipped over his past four starts. In any case, the Blackhawks are a team with a stable position in net. Crawford starts, with Raanta on hand for spot starts. COLORADO AVALANCHE Sure, the Avalanche have a great crop of forwards and that talent is impressive, but if there is a single reason for their dramatic improvement over last season, its likely on the shoulders of goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who has a career-best .925 save percentage, up from a career-low .903 last year. With early-season legal troubles seemingly behind him, Varlamov has performed at an above average level, even after his spectacular start (.945 save percentage in October). Veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere started the year at an outrageous level, posting a .949 save percentage through the end of November, but hes dipped since, with an .857 save percentage in his past six outings. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS It would have been unfair to expect 25-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky to duplicate last years Vezina-Trophy-winning season, when he posted a .932 save percentage, but Bobrovsky slumped in November before getting hurt. Fortunately, for the Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky has been great since coming off the injured list, with a .925 save percentage in January, so hes re-establishing his credentials as a top puckstopper. When Bobrovsky was out, Curtis McElhinney was pressed into more action and has played 22 games already, the second-highest total of his NHL career. 30-year-old McElhinney has a .908 save percentage on the year, which is respectable enough for a bargain backup goaltender. DALLAS STARS A January swoon has knocked Kari Lehtonens numbers (.915 save percentage) down to an average level, but Lehtonens track record is pretty strong. Among goaltenders that handle the heaviest workload, Lehtonen ranks seventh with a .917 save percentage (minimum 180 games) over the past four seasons. Dan Ellis has struggled in the backup role, with an .898 save percentage this season (after .906 in Carolina last year), but is fine, and relatively inexpensive, in the role. DETROIT RED WINGS Its been a tough year for Jimmy Howard, who had a .921 save percentage over the previous two seasons, but had a .906 save percentage through the end of December. Hes been better lately, though injuries have made it difficult for him to establish significant momentum in the crease. Howards injuries allowed Jonas Gustavsson to play and he played well enough -- his .910 save percentage is a career-best -- but hes regressing over the last half dozen starts. 21-year-old Petr Mrazek may be the goaltender of the future and has a .923 save percentage in nine career NHL games but, so far, hes only been able to get spot duty when Howard has been out. EDMONTON OILERS The season started with Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera as the Oilers tandem in net, but theyre both gone, leaving Ben Scrivens and Ilya Bryzgalov to battle for playing time. Scrivens, 27, has had a strong season between Los Angeles and three starts with the Oilers, posting a .930 save percentage in 22 games. Hes going to be a free agent at seasons end, so this is a prime opportunity for him to audition for next year. Signing 33-year-old Bryzgalov seemed desperate at the time and he hasnt played at a level that suggests hes going to turn around the Oilers problems. FLORIDA PANTHERS Tim Thomass return to the NHL, after sitting out last season, has come with a few hiccups. He started slowly, suffered some injuries and then played pretty well in December in January, though his last few starts havent been stellar. Thomas is a 40-year-old who will be an unrestricted free agent, which would make him trade bait if the Panthers arent in playoff contention. However, there may not be a line of teams looking to acquire an older goaltender who is having an uneven season. 36-year-old backup Scott Clemmensen has an .887 save percentage in 32 games over the past two seasons, which isnt doing the Panthers any favours, but hes in the final year of his deal, so isnt part of the long-term plan. Which brings us to Jacob Markstrom, the 23-year-old who was expected to be the Panthers starter as soon as this season, before Thomas was signed. Markstrom might be considered a quality prospect, but his results to this point, which include an .898 save percentage in 43 games, raise some doubts about whether hes legitimately the Panthers starting goaltender of the future. LOS ANGELES KINGS After a down season in 2012-2013, Jonathan Quick had a strong playoff, which figured to set him up for a good 2013-2014 season. Not quite, as Quick had a .905 save percentage in 16 games before getting hurt. Since coming back from his groin injury, Quick has been terrific, with a .934 save percentage in a dozen games, which should provide some comfort, though it would be nice -- no matter who is in net -- if the Kings could provide better offensive support. When Quick got hurt, Ben Scrivens got the first shot to play, but then 24-year-old call-up Martin Jones played so well that he couldnt get bumped out of the net. In a dozen games, Jones has a .940 save percentage, which isnt sustainable, but his AHL performance (a .922 save percentage in 151 games) would seem to suggest that hes NHL-ready. MINNESOTA WILD The story of the season was the play of 29-year-old Josh Harding, who has a .933 save percentage and league-leading 1.65 goals against average. But Harding has been sidelined since last playing New Years Eve, as he tries to get his MS medication adjusted, but the uncertainty over his health has forced the Wild to look for alternatives. Fortunately, prospect Darcy Kuemper has been terrific since getting called up, with a .941 save percentage in January, which is dramatically better than a couple of rough early-season outings for the 23-year-old. The emergence of others has left Niklas Backstrom, the 35-year-old who started for the past six-plus seasons, on the outside looking in. That Backstrom has a career-low .899 save percentage is making it much easier to look for other options, but it will be interesting to see what the Wild can do in the future with Backstrom, who still has two years remaining oon his current contract. Dave Robinson Super Bowl Jersey. MONTREAL CANADIENS The Canadiens defensive collapse, particularly in the month of January, has taken its toll on the numbes of Carey Price, yet Prices .921 save percentage is still the second-best of his career. Over the past four seasons, hes been one of the top heavy-workload puck-stoppers. Peter Budaj continues to perform well in the backup role. Hes been much better as a second-stringer and his .921 save percentage this year is a career-high. NASHVILLE PREDATORS With Pekka Rinne out for most of the season, Nashvilles goaltending plans have been adjusted on the fly. Their latest addition, Devan Dubnyk, was having a miserable season in Edmonton and hasnt fared well in his first couple starts with the Predators, which makes matters even more challenging. 28-year-old Carter Hutton had played precisely one NHL game before winning the job to be Rinnes backup, a gig that figured to require maybe 15 games of work, but Hutton has already played 26 and, while there have been some bumps along the path, he does have a .915 save percentage over the past couple months, emerging as the number one option. For a time, 22-year-old rookie Marek Mazanec was getting many of the starts for the Predators, but his performance faded after a strong start, and hes been returned to Milwaukee of the AHL. All this is a matter of the Predators trying to tread water until Rinne returns. Hes their $7-million franchise goaltender and, on a team that is on a budget, they cant very well afford to have him out of the lineup. But, they dont have much choice in the matter, and have to find a way to make it work until Rinne is sufficiently recovered from hip surgery. NEW JERSEY DEVILS When New Jersey acquired 27-year-old Cory Schneider in a draft day trade with the Vancouver Canucks, it appeared that the Devils had settled on their goaltender of the future and, considering Martin Brodeurs decline in recent seasons, probably the present. Turns out that the Devils are still very loyal to Brodeur, the 41-year-old who has backstopped them to three Stanley Cups, but his play over the past four seasons is not worthy of starting goaltender status. Among goaltenders with at least 100 games played in that span, Brodeur ranks 33rd of 36 with a .904 save percentage. Oh, yeah, and Schneider ranks first at .930, yet Brodeur has played one more game this season. If the Devils are committed to making the postseason, giving Schneider the chance to run with the starting job is the first order of business, and Schneider is forcing that decision with a .952 save percentage in January. NEW YORK ISLANDERS Not altogether surprisingly, 38-year-old Evgeni Nabokov has been a subpar starting goaltender this season, with a .905 save percentage in 25 games, even though hes been better lately, with a .925 save percentage since the beginning of December. Injuries have limited him to 15 games since October, so its tough to trust him, and could be reason enough for the Islanders to seek an upgrade if they think they can make up the difference that they need to make the playoffs. Nabokovs injuries have forced 23-year-old Kevin Poulin into a heavier workload than he can handle and he has an .891 save percentage in 28 games. Poulin might be the goaltender of the future, but hes had a rough go of it over the past couple seasons. Anders Nilsson, also 23, has made it into half a dozen games, but hasnt done anything to indicate that hes the answer to the Isles current problems. Using www.hockey-reference.com Goals Saved Above Average, the Islanders would have allowed 29 fewer goals with average goaltending in place of Nabokov, Poulin and Nilsson. NEW YORK RANGERS One of the elite goaltenders from 2005-2006 through 2013, Henrik Lundqvist has been surprisingly inconsistent this season. Hes been better lately (.931 save percentage in January), but Lundqvists tough start to the year caused the Blueshirts some headaches that they havent been accustomed to dealing with for most of the past decade. It didnt take long for Martin Biron to heed the call of retirement, which created an opportunity for Cam Talbot, which didnt seem like much of a big deal. He is a 26-year-old that was undrafted and played collegiately at that hockey factory Alabama-Huntsville. But Talbot has played well in the AHL (.920 save percentage in 60 games since the start of last season) and has been terrific for the Rangers, posting a .935 save percentage in 16 games. Lundqvist is signed to a new long-term deal, so its not like Talbot is going to usurp him from the No. 1 role, but Talbots contribution has been crucial to the Rangers season. OTTAWA SENATORS Last season was one for the ages for Craig Anderson, who had a .941 save percentage to lead the league. It was also extremely likely -- practically guaranteed -- that he could not duplicate such a lofty percentage over a full season so regression was to be expected. Well, expected or not, Anderson has regressed notably this year, with his .907 save percentage ranking as his lowest since 2005-2006. At the same time, Anderson has still been getting the starters workload, so the Senators are struggling in part because of goaltending, which was the primary reason for their success in 2012-2013. 22-year-old Robin Lehner is destined to be the Senators goaltender of the future and his .923 save percentage in 46 career games is a positive indication, but hes been unable to wrest the job from Anderson this year and giving up five goals in three of his past four starts doesnt make it look very promising for Lehner to take that job this season. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS When the Flyers acquired Steve Mason from Columbus last season, there was little reason for optimism -- Mason had been among the leagues least effective goaltenders since 2009-2010 -- but Mason has played pretty well for the Flyers, recording a .920 save percentage in 47 games. It should be noted, however, that Masons save percentage has dropped to .899 in 21 games since the beginning of December, so it remains fair to wonder (or even expect) if 25-year-old Mason will fall back to his established norms, which could cause the Flyers to regret the three-year, $12.3-million extension he just signed. After Ray Emery had a strong season with Chicago in 2012-2013, there was likely a hope that Emery could compete with Mason for the starting job, but hes struggled this year -- his .897 save percentage is his lowest since 2007-2008. PHOENIX COYOTES Mike Smith may be a Canadian Olympian, but a lot of that would seem to be predicated on his performance in 2011-2012, when he had a career-best .930 save percentage. In the 79 games since, hes posted a .909 save percentage and the Coyotes need better, especially in the years to come since they have Smith signed through 2018-2019. Backup Thomas Greiss has never played much, never more than 19 games in a season, but hes been good. His career-best .935 save percentage this year gives him a solid .917 mark in 57 career games. If Smith continues to struggle, would it be feasible for Greiss to see more action? PITTSBURGH PENGUINS While Marc-Andre Fleury is having another strong regular season, with an entirely respectable .917 save percentage, what he does in the regular season doesnt much matter. Well, it would matter if it was terrible, but the prime objective for Fleury is, once the playoffs come around, to play at a level that will help erase the past four postseasons, during which he posted an .880 save percentage. 26-year-old Jeff Zatkoff hasnt played much, the first 11 games of his NHL career, but hes been fine in the role. A .902 save percentage isnt but his two starts this month (stopping 57 of 65 shots) have dropped otherwise decent numbers. SAN JOSE SHARKS Antti Niemi has been an above-average-to-very-good goaltender over the previous three seasons, but his play hasnt quite been to that level this season -- his .913 save percentage is his lowest since his rookie year in 2009-2010. He is in good company among starting goaltenders over the past four seasons. 26-year-old Alex Stalock had played 72 minutes in three NHL games prior to this season, but he served his time in the AHL and has been great in limited action, posting a 1.56 goals against average and .943 save percentage. Hes allowed more than two goals once in 10 starts. ST. LOUIS BLUES Coming into the year, it looked like Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott might share time in the crease for the Blues, but Halak has taken the decided edge, playing 36 games to Elliotts 22 games, which is strange enough given their relative play (Elliott has a .917 save percentage; Halak has .915). Both are headed for unrestricted free agency and the Blues always seem to get linked to Ryan Miller, which makes for interesting times as the trade deadline approaches. The beauty of it is that, for whomever gets the starting nod, they get to play behind a strong defence. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 27-year-old Ben Bishop had played 45 games in the NHL prior to this season, including nine with the Lightning last year, during which he posted a solid .917 save percentage, which appeared to give him an advantage in the goaltending competition with Anders Lindback. Turns out that there was no competition to be had, as Bishop has been exceptional this season, with his .933 save percentage in 39 games putting him right in the middle of the Vezina Trophy conversation. Lindback has continued to struggle and has a .894 save percentage in 41 games with the Lightning since the start of last season. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS When the Toronto Maple Leafs made a deal for Jonathan Bernier, then signed him to a multi-year contract, there was little doubt which way the club was leaning when it came to their goaltending tandem. To his credit, 25-year-old Bernier has played great, with a .925 save percentage, while handling a starters workload for the first time in his career. James Reimer, also 25, made it difficult to set a number one guy early on, posting a .931 save percentage through the first two months, but his last handful of starts has widened the gap and now its Berniers job to lose. VANCOUVER CANUCKS It might have taken some convincing to get him to come back to Vancouver, Roberto Luongo has resumed his role as the starter and his .921 save percentage is his second-best in the past seven seasons. Theres still the matter of his outrageously long-term deal, but as long as the Canucks have a chance to contend, Luongo is still a strong starting goaltender. 26-year-old Eddie Lack, recovered from a hip injury that cost him most of last season, has been a very good backup, with a .922 save percentage, performing at least adequately when he had to string together a few starts with Luongo injured. WASHINGTON CAPITALS 24-year-old Braden Holtby was off to a fine start to his pro career, and was playing well through the end of November, but hes taken a sudden downturn, posting an .875 save percentage in 11 games since the start of December and talking about having lost his confidence. Michal Neuvirth has been okay when asked to play, with a .915 save percentage in 10 games, but Washingtons best option in goal this season has ben 22-year-old Philipp Grubauer, who delivered a .926 save percentage in 16 games, yet was returned to the AHL when Holtby and Neuvirth were deemed ready to play. If Holtby doesnt recapture that confidence, the Capitals might need Grubauer to come back. WINNIPEG JETS The Jets have Ondrej Pavelec under contract for three more seasons, after this one, a massive commitment for a starting goaltender that currently has a .901 save percentage and has only once in his career posted a save percentage above .906. If a team is ready to make a move in net, it sure ought to be the Jets, but its going to involve some hard decisions on a 26-year-old that has been playing starters minutes at a subpar level. A saving grace for the Jets this season, then, has been 28-year-old Al Montoya, who is likely having the best year of his career, with a .925 save percentage in 16 games. If he could sustain anything resembling that level of play, he might overtake Pavelec, but if he could sustain that level of play, Montoya would likely have played more than 79 career games. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. ' ' '

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