This season there have been a number of unsung goaltenders who are having outstanding seasons. Colorado Avalanche’s Calvin Pickard and Winnipeg Jets’ Michael Hutchinson are number one and two in save percentage this year and also both sit in the top-10 in goals against average.
But as there is some surprising great performances, there are also a collection of goalies who are failing to live up to their hype and are underachieving through the first half of the season.
Amongst all goalies who have played at least 14 games this season, Smith has the lowest save percentage sitting at .885%. Smith also sits dead-last amongst the 42 goaltenders with 3.52 goals against average. The 32-year-old netminder has a 7-17-2 record through 27 games this season.
His numbers this season are the worst of his career and are a big turnaround from last year. During the 2013-14 Smith went 27-21-10 and had a SP of .915% and a 2.64 GAA. On top of that Smith was also named the third-string goaltender for Team Canada’s Olympic team at Sochi. The Dallas 2001 fifth-round pick is on pace to play 67 games with the Coyotes this season, but record just 17 wins, which would be the lowest total in a season playing more than 43 games.
Arizona currently sits 27th in the NHL after finishing 18th last season. The Yotes have struggled recently and have not made the playoffs since the 2011-12 season and with Smith’s poor season it looks as though they will have to wait for at least another year to get back in the playoffs.
The Dallas Stars currently sit four points out of the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. They are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and seem to be on the up after a rough start to the season. The Stars signed former Senators Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky during the off-season and after making that last Wild Card spot last season, it seemed as though the additions would only improve the team.
However, they look to be doing slightly worse than last season and part of the reason is because of the play of Lehtonen. The second-overall pick in 2001 is having arguably his worst season of his career. His .904 SP is the lowest mark during his 10 season in the league and his 2.95 GAA is the second-worst since he entered the NHL. Only his 3.06 mark during the 2008-09 season while with the Atlanta Thrashers is higher.
Lehtonen still has a winning record with 17-9-7, but the Stars are tied for the third-worst goals against this season. He has the 32nd best SP and 33rd GAA so though the Stars are still in contention, he definitely is not playing up to his potential.
Rask’s numbers are far from awful, but in saying that they are amongst the worst of his career. In fact you would have to go back to when Rask was the second in command behind Tim Thomas to find a time where his numbers were this low. The Finish netminder’s GAA sits 22nd in the league at 2.49 while his SP is 23rd in the league at .913%.
Those numbers are the 27-year-old’s worst since 2010-11 season where he only played 29 games going 11-14-2. During his time as a backup he put up a .918 SP and 2.67 GAA. Since then, the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy winner’s GAA have never been higher than 2.05 and his SP has never been lower than .929%.
Bruins new CEO Charlies Jacobs made a State-of-the Bruins address two weeks ago suggesting big changes could be coming to the team unless the they started to play better. The team has since gone 6-1-3 in their last 10 games including winning four straight. The Bruins have since snuck back into the playoffs, holding down the second Wild Card spot in the east.
Rask is still on pace to record the most wins he has in one season with 37, though that is also because he is on pace to play 15 game more than he has in a season. It’s not time to worry just yet, but the Bruins would benefit greatly if Rask could start to mask the same numbers he has over the past three seasons.
Since Jonathan Bernier has come into Toronto, Reimer has become the backup in Leafs Nation. This after he helped to get the Maple Leafs to the playoffs in 2012-13 for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Reimer has the second worst GAA this season behind only Smith amongst goaltenders playing at least 14 games. While his SP sits at .902% 34th out of 42 goalies.
Reimer this season seems to be in a chicken or the egg type of scenario. Is Reimer not seeing the net much because he hasn’t played very well or has he not played very well because he hasn’t seen the net much? Reimer has played in 16 games this season and has gone 6-7-0 in those games. His SP is only slightly better than his career-worst mark. During the 2011-12 season it was .900%, while his 3.50 GAA is the worst of his career.
There was a time where it looked as though Reimer might be a viable starter in another market, but his numbers will have to improve if he hopes to take over in Toronto or elsewhere. He hasn’t played much, but even in a backup role Reimer is not putting up the numbers that he has in the past.
Bishop is likely by far the most controversial name on this list. Especially for a goaltender who currently has a 21-7-2 record this season. Not to mention that the Tampa Bay Lightning are just one point behind the New York Islanders for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bishop finished third in Vezina Trophy voting last season after going 37-14-7 in 63 games while posting a .924 SP and a 2.23 GAA. In fact the Lightning may not have been swept in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens had he not been injured during the entire series.
This season Bishop has the 28th ranked SP at .909% and his GAA sits at 2.41 which is 17th in the league. Bishop has only played 142 games in the NHL and 97 of them have come since the start of last season, which was his first full season in the NHL. Bishop is on pace for 43 wins this season which would easily be the best of his career. His .909 SP, is not a great mark and the fact is the Lightning are the highest scoring team in the league, so he has been getting some help from the guys in front of him.
Bishop and some others on the list are not having terrible seasons and in fact are the victims of their own previous successes. Bishop and Rask are likely to be fine, but the others might need to step up their games if they want to help their teams succeed this season.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.