NHL Goalie Report: 2022-23 Metropolitan Division Preview

The NHL Goalie Report is back! Poised to be better than ever, this series will cover all that matters most throughout 2022-23. Expect these writeups to showcase league leaders, highlight-reel saves, backups battling for starts, spotlight-worthy debuts, questionable calls, all-star performances, injury updates, and everything in between.

NHL Goalie Report Marc-Andre Fleury, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin, Jakob Markstrom, Juuse Saros
2022-23 NHL Goalie Report (The Hockey Writers)

In anticipation of all the newsworthy netminder-centric stories you can look forward to this season, I’ll be publishing previews of the most pressing questions every franchise is facing heading into the year.

RELATED: NHL Goalie Report: 2022-23 Central Division Preview

Bringing things back east, these questions matter throughout the Metropolitan Division.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes have turned into a perennial contender and a lot of that is thanks to the solid goaltending they have enjoyed over the past few seasons. Yet, no former duo appeared quite as dominant as Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta were through 2021-22.

Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes
Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Gregg Forwerck /NHLI via Getty Images)

Although the Hurricanes dressed five different netminders last season, Andersen and Raanta carried most of the team’s workload. However, managing nearly double the number of starts, Andersen edged Raanta in personal stats with his .922 save percentage (SV%), 2.17 goals-against average (GAA), and four shutouts. Also, among goalies who played at least 20 games last year, Andersen’s 0.543 goals saved above expected per 60 (GSAx/60) ranked second.

A late-season injury sidelined Andersen, granting Raanta the opportunity to play hero during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite earning numbers that bettered those he hit throughout the season, with a .922 SV% and 2.26 GAA during their run, Raanta’s Hurricanes failed to make it beyond the Second Round.

With Andersen expected to be back as Raanta hopes to maintain his momentum, which of the two will do enough through the final year of their current contract to earn a more lucrative extension in Carolina?

Columbus Blue Jackets

Despite the Columbus Blue Jackets ranking better through 2021-22 than they did the year prior, they were kept out of the postseason for the second straight year. Elvis Merzļikins and Joonas Korpisalo experiencing regression within their individual stat lines certainly didn’t help matters.

Even as both parts of Columbus’ tandem failed to live up to expectations, Merzļikins still found a way to outperform Korpisalo in a way that helped him maintain his status as their No. 1. Deservedly so, having taken over the role as of his impressive rookie campaign a few years ago.

Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That said, Merzļikins accumulating the worst numbers of his career with the highest game count he’s managed to date isn’t the type of trend his team is hoping for out of their starter. His SV% dropped to .907, his GAA ballooned to 3.22, and he achieved the same amount of shutouts as the year prior even though he had more than double the number of starts.

Can the Blue Jackets count on Merzļikins to earn his $5.4 million through 2022-23 or will Korpisalo step up as he attempts to maximize the value of his next deal?

New Jersey Devils

The fact that the New Jersey Devils saw seven different netminders accumulate starts last season tells you all you need to know when guessing how their 2021-22 campaign concluded. Their goaltending group owning the fourth-worst goals against per game (GA/G) in the league didn’t help their case, either.

Despite being the only Devil to accumulate any shutouts last year, Mackenzie Blackwood set some of the worst stats of his career through 2021-22. That, coupled with being kept out of action for months, opened the door for rookie Nico Daws to make his name more recognizable.

Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils
Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately for the Devils, Daws’ .893 SV% and 3.11 GAA didn’t do much to secure the 21-year-old’s place within their tandem for 2022-23. Instead, New Jersey acquired Vitek Vanecek to shake up their goaltending strategy.

“It was important to go out and find someone who was as hungry to be a No. 1 goalie and go out and push each other,” Fitzgerald said.

As Blackwood plays through the final year of his current term, is it too late for him to convince the Devils that he’s their go-to since they already chose to pay Vanecek more and for a longer duration?

New York Islanders

For a non-playoff team to finish eighth in GA/G should speak to both their failed offensive strategy and the collective efforts of those who controlled their crease. Each fact is true of the 2021-22 New York Islanders. Yet, while Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin averaged a SV% of .918 and a GAA of 2.66 together, it was the one who managed the greater workload that enhanced those metrics the most.

Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Based on the trendline being drawn with Sorokin’s stats, it was only a matter of time before he owned the net in New York. Although Varlamov’s decline expedited that storyline into existence last season, achieving seven shutouts and a winning record on a team that barely played .500 hockey surely helped Sorokin’s case.

With the Islanders hoping to rebound back into a postseason position through 2022-23, can this tandem return to being touted as one of the best or will Sorokin be forced to elevate even higher to compensate for the two?

New York Rangers

It’s an obvious advantage for any organization to witness a Vezina Trophy-worthy performance out of their No. 1 netminder. Just ask the 2021-22 New York Rangers, who found their way back to relevance after finally deciding to prioritize Igor Shesterkin over Alexandar Georgiev after the pair had taken turns as the team’s starter throughout the years prior.

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

It likely didn’t take much for the Rangers to recognize that Shesterkin should own the role, given that Georgiev’s numbers have been headed in the wrong direction for some time now. Their decision-making was rewarded as they witnessed Shesterkin dominate the league with his .935 SV%, 2.07 GAA, and six shutouts. He also led the league in GSAx/60.

That the Rangers chose to part ways with Georgiev while signing Jaroslav Halák via free agency is mostly meaningless, considering that any success the club hopes to accomplish will hinge on Shesterkin’s performance.

If the Rangers can progress further along in their plan thanks to Shesterkin, will the NHL be willing to name him as the first back-to-back Vezina winner since Martin Brodeur?

Philadelphia Flyers

Following a subpart 2020-21 campaign, the Philadelphia Flyers followed up the disappointment with an even bigger one after logging the same number of wins through 2021-22 despite participating in 26 additional contests. As their forwards failed to bounce back in the right direction, so did their goaltending.

Splitting most of the workload, neither Carter Hart nor Martin Jones was able to perform well enough to string together any meaningful success throughout the year. Hart’s GAA of 3.16 wasn’t much better or worse than Jones’ .900 SV%.

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

Finding his way into the mix in 2021-22 with his first five NHL starts was Felix Sandstrom. Despite failing to earn a victory through his debut sample size, Sandstrom set the highest SV% of the three with a .910. It’s no wonder the Flyers chose to let Jones walk, allowing rookie Sandstrom the chance to solidify his spot within their goaltending duo in 2022-23.

While much is still justifiably expected of Hart, as he’s earning just under $4 million per year through 2023-24, can Sandstrom force his way into the spotlight and turn his league minimum paycheque into one of the best values around?

Pittsburgh Penguins

One of the bigger surprises of 2021-22, the Pittsburgh Penguins found a way to remain competitive despite dressing the second-oldest roster in the entire NHL. Fortunately for the franchise, at least one of Pittsburgh’s goalies was among the younger half of their lineup and Tristan Jarry leveraged that youthful energy all season long.

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

Not to be ignored is 30-year-old Casey DeSmith, who strung together the type of year any organization would be ecstatic to extract out of their backup. DeSmith compiled a .914 SV%, 2.79 GAA, and three shutouts. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the Penguins, Jarry’s numbers were superior across every category. Needless to say, it only makes sense to see a tandem of Jarry and DeSmith lead the way for the Penguins through 2022-23.

As Pittsburgh’s current No. 1 looks to optimize his workload through the final year of his contract, will DeSmith’s efforts affect Jarry’s ability to maximize the value of his next deal?

Washington Capitals

With the Washington Capitals making it into the postseason 14 out of the past 15 campaigns, including capturing the 2018 Stanley Cup, it’s safe to say that they are looking to maintain their status as contenders heading into 2022-23. Of course, the only way to encourage such a strategy is to ensure proven winners are placed in the most important positions.

Despite both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek doing more winning than losing with their split in action through 2021-22, neither achieved overly impressive individual numbers. Vanecek’s .908 SV%, 2.67 GAA, and four shutouts just slightly outperformed Samsonov’s results. Decent metrics, but not enough to convince the Capitals that either was going to bring them back to a Final.

Vitek Vanecek, former Washington Capital
Vitek Vanecek, former Washington Capital (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Instead of risking another year that could lead to the same lacklustre conclusion, Washington decided to part ways with the entirety of their former tandem and acquired the reigning Stanley Cup starter — Darcy Kuemper. Needing a new backup to round out their roster, the Capitals also signed Charlie Lindgren this past offseason.

Can the new duo of Kuemper and Lindgren prove that what Washington’s been missing of late has been a more traditional No. 1 and No. 2 type of setup in net?

Can New Names Emerge as the Metro’s Main Duo?

Ironically, despite the most recent Vezina winner residing within the Metropolitan Division, the group of goaltenders that surround him tend to perform at either extreme. We simultaneously witnessed some of the best and worst tandems play alongside and against each other within the Metro last season.

RELATED: Brothers in the NHL

Will it be more of the same through 2022-23 or can these netminders find a way to match the level of competition that’s typically on display when Metropolitan rivals face off?

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