In part 2 of our look at Western Conference goaltenders we'll touch on bottom of the barrel squads and good goalies on bad teams. But does that mean you shouldn’t start them?
Expected to be the number-two man for Russia’s Olympic squad, Coyote netminder Ilya Bryzgalov has been top notch for Phoenix. The past three seasons have seen Bryzgalov, all 6’3” of him, transform from a J-S Giguere back-up to an NHL starter. 41 starts for number 30 this season have resulted in a 24-12-4 record, a .921 SV% and a 2.23 GAA (his backup LaBarbera must be bored). While it’s no secret that his five-hole needs work (his huge stature doesn’t help much), his confidence in playing the puck has increased significantly, opening up the Coyote offensive game. A starter if you have him, especially since the Phoenix D has been playing great (Keith Yandle, Ed Jovanovski and James Vandermeer have been great down low).
Side note: The best thing to happen to Phoenix was when Gretzky stepped down as head coach. Just saying, guys.
Los Angeles Kings
Outside the playoff bubble for now, as they have been since Gretzky left in 1996, LA is on a rise that started two seasons ago and rookie sensation Jonathan Quick is a serious factor in its climb. With 41 starts this season, Quick has posted a 23-15-3 record, a .906 SV% and a 2.60 GAA. With good vision and a devastating blocker, Quick has the ability to lead his young squad far. Just not this season. I’d keep him benched for now, as he still has a lot to learn at the pro level, but don’t be surprised to see a good surge by the Kings come March (Kopitar cannot be stopped and the D is finally getting warmed up).
Minnesota is a team that you hate to see lose. With guys like Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat, Owen Nolan, Guillaume Latendresse and veteran netminder Niklas Backstrom, they have the right parts to work efficiently- unfortunately the cogs just don’t seem to fit right. Tenth in the West, Backstrom has put up decent numbers: 21-14-3 with a .906 SV% and a 2.62 GAA. A great glove and hundreds of games under his belt, he’s a good back-up to have on your roster. Minnesota is known for late season comebacks, so keep an eye in the coming weeks. He should be backing up Kiprusoff for the Finns, so watch him close come Olympic time.
Jonas Hiller is the Henrik Lundqvist of the West: a good goalie on a squad that can play better than they do. With a 17-12-2 record, Hiller has a .918 SV% and a 2.73 GAA- not good, but not awful. His play seems inconsistent but it’s only because the squad in front of him is so bad right now, which is mind boggling. Current Ducks include Corey Perry (46 points), Ryan Getzlaf (45), Saku Koivu (29), Scott Niedermayer (26) and Teemu Selanne (23), but the only players I would scoop up are Perry and Getzlaf (with maybe the exception of D-man Niedermayer). Hiller is a good start, but I’d keep him as a backup- the team in front of him is too inconsistent.
What the hell happened to Dallas this season? 19-17-11? Really? Marty Turco and Alex Auld have both played less than stellar this season, with Turco going 14-13-8 and Auld going 5-4-3. When Brad Richards and Brenden Morrow are two of the top scorers on your team, you know you have issues. Until the offense steps up and the defense learns to stay in their zone (I’m looking at you Mark Fistric), I would keep Turco on the bench.
St. Louis Blues
Ty Conklin and Chris Mason are probably the best goaltending duo in hockey (Huet/Niemi and Rask/Thomas are exceptions). Conklin, who’s been a journeyman backup for the past, well, his career pretty much, has finally found a place that he can be comfortable and back-up a team that appreciates his work (not that Detroit and Buffalo didn’t appreciate him, but Chris Osgood and Ryan Miller were starters when he was there and I don’t think there was any argument about that). Conklin’s 6-6-1 record and Mason’s 14-13-6 showing are deceiving- they’re both great goalies, but St. Louis has trouble in the defensive department more than anything. Once the offense starts to improve, I’d put Mason in my lineup, but don’t expect anything too soon.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Our boy Steve Mason’s sophomore slump is painful considering his productivity in his rookie run, and Mathieu Garon isn’t playing much better. Mason has posted an 11-15-6 record and Garon has gone 7-7-3 –kind of blah if you ask me. Rick Nash can’t win every game, and while the two netminders are capable of running away with games, they can’t win without a team in front of them and unfortunately they don’t have one. Once Nikita Filatov comes up things will change, but not until then. Keep Columbus netminders off your radar.
The worst team in the NHL, safe for Carolina, Edmonton doesn’t have much to be happy about and that includes netminder Nikolai Khabibulin. It’s uncertain if Edmonton is where Khabi went to die, but after he got bumped from the Blackhawks (Huet rocks anyways), he was picked up by the Oilers and here we stand. Posting a 7-9-2 record with a .909 SV % and a terrible 3.03 GAA, Khabibulin just can’t catch a break. With D-men deflecting the puck in, awful screens, and the fact that he’s playing back-up to freshman Jeff Deslauriers (9-13-0), the Bulin-Wall has seen better days, despite being a Team Russia hopeful (big mistake there). Deslauriers will be a good future pick, but I wouldn’t want either of Edmonton’s netminders on my roster this season.