Good goaltending is the key to any successful hockey team. A team is only as good as their goaltending and will only go as far as their goaltending will take them. Just ask the Los Angeles Kings who wouldn’t have had a shot at the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone the Stanley Cup without Jonathan Quick. Or the Philadelphia Flyers who lost in the finals because of poor goaltending from Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Goaltending makes or breaks a championship team.
For most teams relying on one goalie to come up big night after night is tough enough. Teams will usually ride their starter all year, plugging in the backup only when the starter is dead tired. But this year has been a different story for many teams. On any given night you don’t know who you’ll see between pipes.
With the season shortened due to the lockout, it was obvious teams would need to rely on their backup goalies more. Backup goalies everywhere are rejoicing as they’re playing more games in this shortened season then they would in a normal 82 game season.
With the gruelling and compact 48 games season, more and more teams are using goalie tandems. Not only are we seeing more goalie tandems this season, but the teams who are utilizing both goalies are amongst the best in the NHL this season.
The Blackhawks are the prime example of this season’s goaltending tandems. They’ve used both Crawford and Emery during various stretches this season. As a result both goalies are fresh and playing well in the final games before the playoffs.
By using both the veteran and the younger goaltender it helps relieve the pressure from the younger Crawford and also allows him to learn from the veteran Emery.
Using the goalie tandem this season has proven to be a great idea for the Blackhawks. Both have been stellar at times this season and as a result they’re currently in first place in the entire league.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Remember when everyone was freaking out about the Leafs inexperienced goaltenders? Then when the Leafs were going to acquire a goalie at the trade deadline everyone was against that notion? Good times in Toronto.
Both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have played well for the Leafs and have them currently inside the playoff picture. Having two young goalies battle to become the starter, has forced both Scrivens and Reimer to elevate their game. The Leafs finally have a competitive goalie tandem and as a result they’re having a great season.
Now that the Leafs don’t have to worry about their goaltending holding them back, they’re able to focus on offence. Leafs sit 5th in the Eastern Conference.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues don’t have a goalie duo, they have a goaltending trio. While Elliott has struggled at times this season the Blue have been able to call on other goalies to step up and carry the load while their “number one” goalie was off his game.
Halak and Elliott combined to carry the Blues last season and won the William. M. Jennings trophy for their efforts. They became the first goalie tandem in NHL history to both record at least 6 shutouts in a season.
After their strong performance between the pipes last season everyone expected the same again this season. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Both netminders lost their job to the rookie Jake Allen and Brian Elliott even found himself in the AHL by March.
With the last handful of games before the playoffs both Halak and Elliot have re-found their game and are ready to prove critics wrong. The Blues are a team on the prowl. Sitting 6th in the West- they’re a scaring team heading into the playoffs.
In the first round of the playoffs last season goaltending was the Penguins downfall. They played their rivals in the Flyers and let their
emotion’s get the better of them. To insure that wouldn’t happen again they brought in Tomas Vokoun to hold down the fort when Fleury isn’t playing well.
The Penguins have arguably the best goalie tandem in the league right now. Both goalies have been stellar this season posting Save Percentages above .910. It’s been an up and down season for Fleury who has struggled at times but Vokoun has stepped up and shut the door while his counterpart was struggling.
While Vokoun likely wont win any accolades for his performance between the pipes this season, he’s been huge for the Penguins. By sharing some of the load Fleury will be rested for the playoffs and if he has some rough patches Vokoun can step in.
The Penguins goaltending is a big reason they’re the Stanley Cup favorites and why they’re currently first in the East.
The Ducks, much like the Blackhawks, have utilized their goalie tandem for the best. Hiller faltered this season and battled injury, during that time Fasth came in and proved he’s ready to be an NHL goalie. Instead of letting their situation turn into a controversy they’ve used their tandem to propel them into 2nd in the West.
The Ducks have had a remarkable turnaround from last season and their goalie tandem deserves a lot of credit for carrying the load.
In addition to the teams listed above who have fully utilized their goalie tandems and are benefiting in the standings, at least a third of all NHL teams are playing their tandems more and more often. The Vancouver Canucks have used both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo at times this season, the Ottawa Senators were forced to use both Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop, The New Jersey Devils have used both Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg and the Lightning have also used multiple netminders.
When you look around the NHL this seems to be the year of the goalie tandems. Some of the teams atop of the NHL have been utilizing their goalie tandems to the fullest and as a result their dominating the NHL.