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