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.
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.
Capping off this set of previews, with all other divisions now accounted for, is the Pacific.
Following a few less-than-ideal campaigns for the Anaheim Ducks, the highlight reel that some of their young stars were able to produce in 2021-22 would have made it seem like the franchise had turned things around. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and an inconsistent John Gibson didn’t help matters. Especially since he’s also struggled to maintain his position among the league’s best in recent seasons.
After a hot start, in which Gibson went 9-2-2 with a .925 save percentage (SV%) and 2.38 goals-against average (GAA), the former second-round pick saw his numbers drop the rest of the way. To the degree that he ended the campaign with a .904 SV% and 3.19 GAA. Plus, his -14.3 goals saved above expected (GSAx) also landed him near the bottom of the league in that category.
However, maintaining the momentum gained after a solid showing to conclude the 2020-21 campaign, Anthony Stolarz ended up compiling even better backup numbers through 2021-22. Not only did Stolarz earn more shutouts than Gibson, but his .917 SV% and 2.67 GAA offered a drastic upgrade in each regard.
With Gibson being paid as a true NHL No. 1 through 2026-27, how much rope will Anaheim give him in 2022-23 before they resort to letting Stolarz steal the show again?
Not only should their first-place finish in the Pacific Division have been enough for the 2021-22 Calgary Flames to silence any of Jacob Markström‘s skeptics, but the season he strung together propelled him into the Vezina Trophy conversation to boot. As a bonus for Calgary, backup Daniel Vladar was always ready when called upon.
Back to shining the deserved light upon their starter, Markström achieved the best numbers of his career, while logging the most ice time of his career, in 2021-22. His 37 wins, .922 SV%, 2.22 GAA, and nine shutouts had him at or near the top of each respective category. Pretty good for a goalie at any age, let alone a 32-year-old.
Given the rollercoaster ride of an offseason in Calgary, will their tandem of Markström and Vladar be able to uphold the standard they’ve now set as the rest of the Flames’ lineup works to create cohesion?
While it’s true that the Edmonton Oilers continue to progress in their desired direction, clearly the historic franchise isn’t content with how 2021-22 concluded. The reality is, despite both Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith earning winning records, neither did enough to align with Edmonton’s efforts up front. As evidenced by Koskinen’s .903 SV% and Smith’s 2.81 GAA.
Meanwhile, despite a much smaller sample size with only 13 games played last season, third-stringer Stuart Skinner put together an impressive enough stat line to end up being the only one to remain heading into 2022-23. The youngest of the three, the 23-year-old’s .913 SV% and 2.62 GAA were a better indication of his skill set than his .500 record.
Rather than irresponsibly dropping the responsibility upon Skinner’s shoulders, the Oilers signed Jack Campbell in free agency. They agreed to pay the 30-year-old $5 million per for the next five years with the hopes that he’ll help give Edmonton the edge they’ve been missing in net.
Finally poised to play as a true No. 1 with years of commitment in the same city ahead of him, can Campbell continue to churn out the all-star performances he became known for with the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Los Angeles Kings
Safe to say, the Los Angeles Kings surprised a lot of onlookers last season. Their entire roster seemed determined to prove skeptics wrong. Including 36-year-old Jonathan Quick, who enjoyed a resurgence of sorts through 2021-22 despite it seeming as though Cal Petersen was poised to take over sooner than later.
Although Quick has put together a career that demands respect, his play had faltered of late. Yet, he found a way to rebound back to the best numbers he’s achieved since 2017-18 with a .910 SV%, 2.59 GAA, and two shutouts en route to a 23-13-9 record.
Good enough to be on the better side of the split workload he shared with the younger Petersen, who showed flashes of brilliance throughout but didn’t take the full leap forward supporters hoped he would last season.
Will 2022-23 be the year in which Petersen proves he truly is the goalie of the future for Los Angeles or will Quick continue finding ways to turn back the clock in a Kings uniform?
San Jose Sharks
While it’s likely that few had the San Jose Sharks pegged as a team to worry about in 2021-22, it’s fair to assume that the franchise missing the playoffs for the third straight year isn’t the conclusion they were hoping for. Interestingly, despite collective failure, their three busiest netminders found a way to maintain decent metrics.
The combination of James Reimer, Adin Hill, and Kaapo Kähkönen accounted for 84 games played and none earned a SV% lower than .906 or a GAA higher than 2.90. Not bad, considering that their teammates did little to support those efforts by only averaging 2.57 goals per game (GF/G).
Kähkönen was a late-season acquisition and appears to be in a position to become San Jose’s go-to. Meanwhile, Reimer is about to play through the last year of his current contract.
“It’s really about looking forward, and we had the opportunity to acquire a 25-year-old up-and-coming goaltender. And that’s a player we looked at quite extensively through expansion last year.”
How quickly will 26-year-old Kähkönen’s age advantage factor into the equation when it comes to San Jose deciding how loyal they should be to 34-year-old Reimer as he works to earn his next deal?
Although it was likely that the Seattle Kraken would falter in greater fashion through their debut campaign than the expansion team that preceded them, it’s safe to say that no one expected their goaltending to be worthy of so much blame. Unfortunately for Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, rather than surprising in Seattle, 2021-22 turned into a wasted opportunity for the tandem.
Both accumulated losing records through the Kraken’s inaugural campaign. When it comes to traditional individual stats, Driedger’s .899 SV% and 2.96 GAA shined a little brighter. However, Grubauer’s -33.7 GSAx was not only the worst on his team, but it also ranked him last in the entire league in that respect.
The reality is, neither potential starter stole the role. Helping to further justify why Seattle felt it necessary to infuse Martin Jones into their plans for 2022-23.
With three experienced netminders to choose from on any given night, can Seattle hope to extract the best from each or will this strategy just confuse matters further when it comes to determining their true No. 1?
While one could look to backup Jaroslav Halák’s 2021-22 stat line and easily assume the Vancouver Canucks missed the postseason, reflecting on starter Thatcher Demko‘s progress would have made that fact harder to believe. Add in what prospect Spencer Martin proved capable of in his small sample size and the year could have seemingly concluded much differently for the Canucks had they gone with their better tandem throughout it.
Demko is already looked at as one of the position’s brightest stars. Accumulating a .915 SV%, 2.72 GAA, and 0.170 GSAx/60 behind a mostly underwhelming Canucks team illustrates why. Meanwhile, Martin found a way to better those metrics with a .950 SV%, 1.74 GAA, and 1.427 GSAx/60.
However, a larger game count than the six he got into would have likely balanced Martin’s results accordingly. That said, there’s no denying that his performance earned him an opportunity to start the season as Demko’s No. 2.
With a duo of Demko and Martin looking to maintain their momentum through 2022-23, can the Canucks finally anticipate a better fate?
Vegas Golden Knights
Perhaps it was a mere coincidence that the Vegas Golden Knights’ luck ran out immediately following their decision to disregard Marc-André Fleury after he owned the role as the face of their franchise through its first few years. Yet, parting ways with a Vezina winner destined for the Hall of Fame seems less like a matter of chance.
What the Golden Knights couldn’t have foreseen, though, was that Robin Lehner would then set some of his worst numbers to date with a .907 SV% and 2.83 GAA. Season-ending surgery locked those stats in before Lehner had a chance to help Vegas put together any type of late push in 2021-22. Likely to miss the entire 2022-23 schedule following another procedure this offseason, Lehner won’t have a chance to immediately redeem himself either.
Vegas’ goaltending group currently appears crowded enough to compensate, having acquired Michael Hutchinson, Laurent Brossoit, and Adin Hill in recent months. Meanwhile, Logan Thompson remains a more than relevant option following an impressive rookie campaign that included a winning record, .914 SV%, 2.68 GAA, and one shutout.
Will the Golden Knights overthink this one or can they get back to betting on the netminder that’s offering them the greatest odds?
Which Pacific Pair Will Surprise Skeptics?
It will take time to accurately determine which Pacific Divison goaltenders stand out among the rest through 2022-23. However, it would seem that certain netminders are entering a more advantageous scenario than others, relative to any recent momentum gained as well as a more promising lineup playing in front of them.
It’s only fair to let the season play out before determining which Pacific Division pair performed best. Yet, it certainly seems some are at an advantage given any recent momentum gained and a more promising lineup in front of them.
Can a lesser-known duo do enough to make a case for becoming the Pacific’s most talked-about pair or will those more recognizable continue to dominate the division’s headlines?
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