COUNT­DOWN

Teams have bucked 1A-1B trend and re­turned to a throw­back strat­egy lean­ing heav­ily on their No. 1 goalies

The Hockey News - - BUZZ - BY MATT LARKIN

COREY CRAW­FORD AN­TON FORSBERG

CHICAGO BLACK­HAWKS

Craw­ford has long been one of league’s most un­der­rated goalies, but he tends to break down phys­i­cally if he plays too much. Hawks thus al­ways need a good backup. Forsberg and Jeff Glass have been ad­e­quate re­liev­ing in­jured Craw­ford.

JONATHAN QUICK DARCY KUEM­PER

LOS AN­GE­LES KINGS

Af­ter an in­jury-ab­bre­vi­ated 2016-17, su­per-ath­lete Quick is play­ing his best hockey in years. Kuem­per has been sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive in a backup role as well. If Kings can squeak into play­offs, Quick re­mains ca­pa­ble of steal­ing a series.

CONNOR HELLEBUYCK STEVE MA­SON

WIN­NIPEG JETS

Hellebuyck is fi­nally break­ing out to be­come the star he was al­ways pre­dicted to be. He ob­vi­ously lacks play­off ex­pe­ri­ence, but ev­ery goalie has to start some­where. At least he has an ex­pe­ri­enced (and ex­pen­sive) backup to learn from in Ma­son.

MARC-AN­DRE FLEURY MAL­COLM SUB­BAN

VE­GAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

On a per-game ba­sis, ‘Flower’ has been bet­ter than any­one, in­clud­ing Vasilevskiy, in a small sam­ple size. It’s clear Fleury is a per­ma­nent in­jury risk at this point in his ca­reer, though. Ve­gas’ backup crew has been great but is still very green.

JOHN GIB­SON RYAN MILLER

ANA­HEIM DUCKS

We’re still wait­ing for for­mer megaprospect Gib­son to climb the rung from good to great, but he’s an above-av­er­age starter, and Miller, 37, has played like a man 10 years younger in re­lief. While not elite, Ducks’ goal­tend­ing is a strength.

FRED­ERIK AN­DER­SEN CUR­TIS MCEL­HIN­NEY

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Chicken, meet egg: Does McEl­hin­ney play so lit­tle be­cause An­der­sen has been such a steady workhorse No. 1, or does An­der­sen play so much be­cause the Leafs have lit­tle faith in a jour­ney­man backup with a ca­reer 2.93 GAA and .907 SP?

MARTIN JONES AARON DELL

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Jones was the NHL’s busiest goalie across his first two sea­sons as San Jose’s starter, av­er­ag­ing 65 ap­pear­ances. This sea­son: Dell has been the story, step­ping in with stel­lar play with Jones hurt. Dell has been an ex­em­plary No. 2 since last year.

TUUKKA RASK AN­TON KHUDOBIN

BOS­TON BRU­INS

Rask has caught fire over the past cou­ple months, key­ing a big Bru­ins surge. It al­most seems silly that peo­ple were le­git­i­mately ask­ing if Khudobin had taken over the start­ing job back in Novem­ber, though he has been ex­cel­lent.

DEVAN DUBNYK ALEX STALOCK

MIN­NESOTA WILD

Dubnyk ranks top-five in the NHL in games, wins and save per­cent­age over past four sea­sons. His game isn’t quite as mag­i­cal this year, but Stalock has stepped up with above-av­er­age backup play. The Wild can trust their goal­tend­ing nightly.

HEN­RIK LUNDQVIST ONDREJ PAVELEC

NEW YORK RANGERS

Lundqvist is en­joy­ing an­other fine sea­son in what will be a Hall of Fame ca­reer, and Pavelec has been bet­ter than ex­pected back­ing him up, but both have been prone to ran­dom blowup starts (com­bined 11 games with four-plus goals al­lowed).

BEN BISHOP KARI LEHTONEN

DAL­LAS STARS

Bishop isn’t match­ing his Tampa Bay peak but has still been a true up­grade in Dal­las’ crease. Lehtonen wasn’t cut­ting it as a starter any­more but makes for a per­fectly de­cent No. 2 op­tion, which is use­ful given Dal­las’ gru­elling travel sched­ule.

MIKE SMITH DAVID RITTICH

CAL­GARY FLAMES

Flames ac­quired Smith, the top puck­han­dling goalie of this gen­er­a­tion, hop­ing he was still good and merely stuck on a bad Ari­zona team. They were right. He’s shown he has plenty left at 35, while un­drafted backup Rittich has been a rev­e­la­tion.

SEMYON VARLAMOV JONATHAN BERNIER

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Nathan MacKinnon’s MVP-cal­iber sea­son and the Avs’ 10-game win­ning streak were shock­ers, but just as un­ex­pected has been Bernier’s ex­cel­lent work as a re­place­ment for the in­jured Varlamov. Has Bernier taken the No. 1 job for good?

CORY SCH­NEI­DER KEITH KINKAID

NEW JER­SEY DEVILS

Sch­nei­der has re­bounded nicely af­ter the worst sea­son of his ca­reer, coin­cid­ing with the rookie-laden Devils vastly ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions in the Metro. Kinkaid, 28, has set­tled in as an av­er­age backup and isn’t a threat to steal Sch­nei­der’s job.

JAKE ALLEN CARTER HUTTON

ST. LOUIS BLUES

What a mess. Tal­ented, enig­matic Allen seem­ingly turned a men­tal cor­ner last year. Now he’s strug­gling again, with ca­reer backup Hutton ab­so­lutely on fire. Who does coach Mike Yeo turn to in the play­offs? It’s a ma­jor headache.

CAM TAL­BOT AL MONTOYA

ED­MON­TON OIL­ERS

Tal­bot’s fourth-place fin­ish in Vez­ina vot­ing last year feels like a dis­tant dream. He hasn’t been him­self in 2017-18, but nei­ther has the woe­ful, dis­ap­point­ing team in front of him. It’s too early to write Tal­bot off as a vi­able long-term op­tion in net.

BRIAN EL­LIOTT MICHAL NEUVIRTH

PHILADEL­PHIA FLY­ERS

The pla­toon trend has died off so much that even a tan­dem of two life­long pla­toon goalies has set­tled in as a 1-2, with El­liott play­ing more than twice as many games as Neuvirth. And yet Neuvirth has been far bet­ter than El­liott. Go fig­ure.

JAROSLAV HALAK THOMAS GREISS

NEW YORK IS­LAN­DERS

Nei­ther of these veter­ans seems long for Brook­lyn, es­pe­cially pend­ing UFA Halak. Both have strug­gled, hold­ing back one of the NHL’s high­est-scor­ing teams and prompt­ing Isles fans to de­mand GM Garth Snow seek an up­grade via trade.

ANTTI RAANTA SCOTT WEDGEWOOD

ARI­ZONA COY­OTES

The Desert Dogs are a dis­as­ter, sure, but it hasn’t been Raanta’s fault. His save per­cent­age is re­spectable. As a pend­ing UFA, he makes for an in­ter­est­ing rental, per­haps not as a starter but as a BandAid for a team with an in­jured No. 1.

ROBIN LEHNER CHAD JOHNSON

BUF­FALO SABRES

Tough choice to make with RFA Lehner, who was great last sea­son but strug­gled this year – with a ter­ri­ble de­fen­sive team in front of him. Should GM Ja­son Bot­ter­ill bet on Lehner’s tal­ent or cash him out as a trade chip at the dead­line?

JA­COB MARKSTROM ANDERS NILSSON

VAN­COU­VER CANUCKS

Two huge net­min­ders, two solid back­ups, but nei­ther is a real starter. This tan­dem is merely keep­ing the seat warm for prospect Thatcher Demko. The Canucks’ re­build plan in­cludes him tak­ing over as the starter some­day soon.

JIMMY HOWARD PETR MRAZEK

DETROIT RED WINGS

The Wings should not be happy that vet­eran Howard has out­played and usurped Mrazek. Mrazek was a big-time tal­ent flirt­ing with the Vez­ina Trophy race just two years ago. He’s still just 26, but he seems to need a change of scenery.

CRAIG AN­DER­SON MIKE CONDON

OTTAWA SE­NA­TORS

An­der­son con­tin­ues his bizarre ca­reer pat­tern of al­ter­nat­ing great sea­sons with sub­par ones. But will the pen­du­lum ever swing to “great” again? He’s 36 and may sim­ply be slow­ing down. Condon has dis­ap­pointed as well.

SCOTT DAR­LING CAM WARD

CAROLINA HUR­RI­CANES

The Canes bet big on be­he­moth Dar­ling, who had sparkling num­bers as a backup in Chicago but was untested as a starter. The gam­ble has blown up in GM Ron Fran­cis’ face. Goal­tend­ing is the No. 1 fac­tor keep­ing the team from a play­off spot.

SERGEI BOBROVSKY

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