Part 2 of our look at the netminders of the Eastern Conference will focus more on the Southeast and Atlantic divisions. We’ll look at average teams with above average goaltenders and, despite poor records, why you shouldn’t underestimate Dwayne Roloson and Tomas Vokoun.
New York Rangers
They don’t call him King Henry for nothing. Henrik Lundqvist is potentially the best goalie in the NHL on a team that continues to disappoint. While it seems that the Rangers have gotten their act together lately, they still remain inconsistent, a problem that is prominent throughout most of the team except Lundqvist. Night after night, number 30 tends the pipes and scoops his teammates out of rough situations by, simply put, being great. Quick legs and even quicker reflexes make the Swede one of the most deceptive netminders in not just the Eastern Conference, but the world. With Lundqvist in the net, Sweden should certainly make it to a medal game in this Winter Olympics.
New York Islanders
The Islanders have had quite a few interesting stories this season. The offensive out-put of rookie John Tavares (17g+14a) or the equally impressive hot streak of Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson; the slow but steady comeback of netminder Rick DiPietro; three goaltenders who could go to virtually any team and battle for the top spot. And the re-emergence of Edmonton cast away Dwayne Roloson. The front man for now, Roloson has been looking like the great goalie he was in seasons past. With a 19-8-6 record and an impressive .912 save percentage, Rolly may be the number one man in Long Island for seasons to come. Biron will more than likely be dealt to open up some cap room, and with DiPietro rehabbing for who knows how long, Roloson is a safe bet. The Isles will only get better, so play him if you’ve got him.
After a season over in Russia, Ray Emery returned to the States a changed man. Except, that’s not true at all. Emery is a talented goaltender, with a quick glove, a good ability to read the play, quick legs that all but close the bottom of the net, and he can fight like a champ. But all of these factors don’t really matter when you’re as inconsistent as Emery is (and has been, for that matter). A starter for now, Emery is backed by Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, two goalies who have seen limited ice time (they’ve both backed solid goalies before coming to Philly). The number one spot in the crease in Philly is Emery’s for now, but I would look else where for fantasy points.
Tim Thomas is a lot like Martin Brodeur, in the sense that you’re never quite sure how he made that last save. He has an unorthodox style but, unlike Brodeur, it looks like Thomas has no clue what the hell he’s doing- he just somehow keeps the puck out of the net. With a 13-12-6 record this season, he’s not looking like the 2009 Vezina Trophy winner that he is. On the other had, his backup, Tuukka Rask, has played quite well considering this is his first year of real ice time. Rask would be good to have in your roster, but Thomas needs to improve a bit before I’d give him serious consideration.
Toronto Maple Leafs
What happened to Vesa Toskala? The only Leaf’s that should be on your team are Tomas Kaberle (The D-man has 5g+37a, and he leads the squad in points…) and Matt Stajan.
When looking at the Thrashers goaltending core, it’s surprising that they’re near the top of the Southeast Division. Ondrej Pavelec (12-13-4 with a .903 SV%) managed to muscle the top job from Johan Hedberg (10-8-3 with a .913 SV%) because… well, I’m not exactly sure. Neither netminder is a quality starter, so it seems that Atlanta is just dealing with what they have until they can trade Ilya Kovalchuk. A decent offense in a weak division is the story of the Thrashers this season.
Tomas Vokoun is better than his record shows. Currently at 16-15-9, the crafty Vokoun is a magician in the crease. He has the ability to make shooters think they have an open opportunity, and he slams the door on them game in and game out. His Panther squad is below average, with the exception of Nathan Horton who continues to shine. Vokoun would make a good backup, but dish him and a heavy scorer if he’s your number one man.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Mike Smith and Philly cast-off Antero Niittymaki split time for Tampa, and while neither netminder is stellar, the team in front of them is. Tampa’s lack of success sits not on the shoulders of the netminders, but on the coaching staff. With each goaltender having nearly identical stats, the coaches need to pick one and let him ride it out (Smith would be my choice). I’d keep Tampa netminders off my radar for now.
Are you kidding? Absolutely not.