While the rest of the world anticipates an opportunity to slow down following the rush of the holiday season, activity around the NHL is full steam ahead. Fittingly, as their play often sets the tone for any given contest, it’s the goalies who are navigating the way for each respective franchise.
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With a mere few weeks remaining in 2022, and as the netminder-centric headlines continue to dominate each division, this mid-month review will get you caught up on the league’s latest trends as the year comes to a close.
NHL Goalie Stat Leaders
Nearing closer to the midway point of the campaign, 46 of the game’s busiest goalies have compiled at least 11 starts as of Dec. 16.
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Pitting those within that subsection against each other, these are the NHL’s current leaders in wins (W), goals-against average (GAA), save percentage (SV%), shutouts (SO), and goals saved above expected per 60 (GSAx/60).
W: Linus Ullmark (17)
GAA: Ilya Samsonov (1.70)
SV%: Ilya Samsonov (.939)
SO: Four-way tie* (3)
GSAx/60: Ilya Samsonov (0.962)
*Pyotr Kochetkov, Ville Husso, Karel Vejmelka, Connor Hellebuyck
With any early-season surprises now balancing back the other way, the Atlantic Division standings are more accurately aligned thanks to those most responsible for affecting a team’s respective ranking.
Ullmark Crafting NHL Awards Speech in Boston
It’s no longer just that Linus Ullmark is outperforming Jeremy Swayman in a way that is delaying Swayman’s ability to take over as the Boston Bruins’ No. 1. Ullmark has taken the entire league by storm thus far through 2022-23 to a degree that would make it irresponsible to neglect including him when it comes to discussing the 2023 NHL Awards.
Reflecting on the Bruins’ ongoing dominance, it should come as no surprise to see that their goaltending results have aligned accordingly. As a team, they rank best in goals against, having only allowed 64 through their first 29 games. Yet, that Swayman has only added 5-3-1 to Boston’s first overall record furthers just how important Ullmark has been.
The 29-year-old is currently 17-1-1, with a .938 SV%, 1.83 GAA, 0.778 GSAx/60, and two shutouts. Impressive enough numbers, across the board, that suggest he could easily be named a finalist for more than just the Vezina Trophy.
Of course, Ullmark will have to maintain this level of momentum to justify such league-wide and non-goalie-specific recognition. Good thing he’s already proving that to be a very plausible reality, having helped the Bruins pick up 21 of a possible 22 points through their last 11.
Anderson Needs Better Backup Support in Buffalo
After beginning their campaign 7-3-0, it felt like this may have been a different type of year for the Buffalo Sabres than they’ve become accustomed to of late. Having last played a postseason game in 2010-11, that hot of a start suggested a much different fate by season’s end.
Considering that they are currently the highest-scoring team in the NHL, averaging 3.93 goals for per game, they should be one of the most dangerous lineups in the league. Unfortunately, their goaltending hasn’t kept up in the same manner. While 41-year-old Craig Anderson has been pulling his weight — with a .921 SV%, 2.71 GAA, and 4.1 GSAx — backups Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen have failed to do the same.
As a trio, sharing most of the workload to this point, they have combined for a 3.31 GAA, .898 SV%, and 0.58 GSAx. Numbers that essentially neutralize the potency of their offense. If the Sabres hope to battle for a wild card spot, they’ll need far more saves with Comrie and Luukkonen between the pipes.
As the Metropolitan Division looks to maintain the parity it seems to set every season, polarizing performances in net have caused a shift within the rankings.
Lindgren Shines as Washington’s Relief Starter
When the Washington Capitals chose to revamp their entire goaltending strategy heading into 2022-23, it would have been fair to presume that Darcy Kuemper would be hailed the hero once that plan began to unfold. Yet, although Kuemper’s play has improved following a slow start, backup Charlie Lindgren deserves recognition for Washington’s winning ways of late.
That Washington was a modest 10-12-4 while Kuemper was still active, before being sidelined on Dec. 3, illustrates just how quickly fortunes can change as they’re now a much more competitive 15-13-4. Lindgren hasn’t only managed the increased workload in Kuemper’s absence, but he’s also performing in a way that’s placing him among the game’s best.
Having won five of his last six, Lindgren set a .936 SV%, 1.76 GAA, and 3.87 GSAx during that span. While he’ll need to perform at that level a little while longer before his overall individual metrics bypass Kuemper’s, Lindgren’s 7-4-2 is already far superior to his colleague’s losing record of 8-9-1.
It will be interesting to see how Washington leverages Lindgren’s strong showing when Kuemper returns. The former Stanley Cup winner will likely be prioritized, but knowing what his No. 2 is capable of has to shorten his leash in Washington. At the very least, this could turn into more of a 1A/1B tandem than originally anticipated.
Kochetkov Continues Saving the Season in Carolina
It’s no secret that for an organization to be considered among the contenders, solid goaltending is a must. As the Carolina Hurricanes entered 2022-23 with a tandem of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, who collectively accumulated an impressive 31.5 GSAx in 2021-22, they seemed set in that regard.
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Unfortunately, the duo has failed to carry that impact forward thus far this season. Not only has Andersen been out since early November, but neither has a SV% above .900, a GAA below 2.60, or a positive GSAx/60. Yet, the Hurricanes sit still second in the Metropolitan. And one need not look any further than Pyotr Kochetkov‘s impressive run to understand how that’s possible.
“We needed a win. I thought we had a good start, I thought we were going pretty well and then we took a few penalties. That got us on our heels, but Pyotr made a lot of great saves tonight. He really kept us, I don’t want to say in the game, but we didn’t have to panic. He kept them off the scoresheet. Really huge performance by him.”
Kochetkov’s .923 SV%, 2.01 GAA, 0.677 GSAx/60, and two shutouts all rank best among Carolina’s goaltending group. With Raanta active alongside him, as they await Andersen’s return, the net is clearly Kochetkov’s to lose at the moment.
As the goalies that onlookers would expect to be leading the Central Division do so, some newer faces have helped elevate their franchises in the most necessary ways.
Avalanche Getting Full Value Out of Georgiev
Anticipating that they’d watch their Cup-winning netminder walk in free agency, the Colorado Avalanche didn’t waste any time filling that void between their pipes. In an effort to retain their contender status, it made perfect sense that Colorado called the organization with the reigning Vezina winner. However, with Igor Shesterkin committed as a New York Ranger for years to come, the Avalanche would have to settle for his now-former backup — Alexandar Georgiev.
What could have seemed like a risky move, given that Georgiev’s numbers had regressed to the point that he was far from competing to be New York’s No. 1, has turned into a reward for Colorado. Playing behind a depleted Avalanche roster, against all odds, the 26-year-old has found a way to keep them relevant.
He’s currently 11-6-2, with a .918 SV%, 2.67 GAA, 3.2 GSAx, and one shutout. Colorado being anywhere near a playoff position is directly tied to Georgiev’s influence.
Just imagine what his numbers would look like if he had the plethora of those watching from Colorda’s press box playing in front of him, all the while. We’ll see what more the Avalanche are capable of if they ever get back to full health this season.
Wild’s Gustavsson Outperforming Hall of Famer
Safe to say, the Minnesota Wild were anticipating the version of Marc-André Fleury that went 9-2-0 after being acquired midway through 2021-22 to stick around a little longer than he has. Unfortunately, the 38-year-old’s .895 SV%, 3.05 GAA, and -2.9 GSAx are doing little in the way of living up to the future Hall of Famer’s standards. Luckily for the Wild, though, there’s an eager 24-year-old newcomer ready to outshine his mentor.
Don’t let the fact that Filip Gustavsson‘s 6-4-1 record is lesser than Fleury’s 10-7-1 fool you. The younger of the two is accomplishing a lot more with every start. As evidenced by Gustavsson’s 2.33 GAA, .921 SV%, and 4.4 GSAx. Superior to Fleury in every regard.
While there’s no denying that Fleury will be long remembered as one of the NHL’s greatest netminders ever, it’s clearly in Minnesota’s best interest to shift their focus to the one giving them a better chance to win in the present.
Far more competitive than most would have anticipated heading into 2022-23, the Pacific Division has risen to a new level of relevance thanks to some key performances in net.
Skinner Seeks Edmonton’s First Calder Trophy
If you thought that the Edmonton Oilers have witnessed every NHL Award being handed out to one of their own at some point throughout their history, given the greatness that’s suited up for their franchise, you’d be wrong. Yet, the season that Stuart Skinner is putting together could push them that much closer to seeing their first Calder Trophy.
Jack Campbell sporting a GAA north of 4.00 and a SV% south of .880 would be a more concerning storyline, had it not been for Skinner’s rise to stardom in 2022-23. Setting modest metrics as Edmonton’s third-string goalie in 2021-22, it was clear that Skinner had talent to work with. However, no one could have anticipated the dominance he’s displayed since taking over Campbell’s crease.
Earning more starts to this point in the campaign, Skinner’s .919 SV%, 2.76 GAA, and 2.9 GSAx not only outshine Campbell but they also put him among the best rookies in each category. Although probability suggests that a player is more likely to achieve any given year’s Calder over a goalie, Skinner’s play has earned him the right to be included in that discussion.
Meanwhile, if the Oilers hope to be making any noise late in the campaign, it’s in their best interest to prioritize allowing Skinner to ride this wave over encouraging a comeback by Campbell. Starting the better-performing goalie is one of the simplest, yet potentially most impactful, decisions a coach can make.
Markström’s Flame Doused in Calgary
Jacob Markström‘s ability to elevate through his second year with the Calgary Flames had to leave the club feeling pretty good about the $6 million they agreed to pay him through 2025-26. After his 2.22 GAA, .922 SV%, 10.8 GSAx, and nine shutouts in 2021-22 got him closer to a Vezina than ever before, surely the Flames were anticipating more of the same in 2022-23. Unfortunately, that’s not been the case.
Yet to record his first shutout of the season, as Calgary currently sits on the outside of the playoff picture, it’s safe to say that Markström’s starts should be far from guaranteed at this point. Especially considering his .897 SV%, 2.81 GAA, and five-game losing streak.
Whether or not backup Daniel Vladar can do enough to knock Markström out of Calgary’s No. 1 spot is yet to be seen, but the organization would be wise to let the play of each do the deciding for them. Even if that means that Markström’s paycheque is seen as more of an expense than an investment.
More NHL Netminder News & Notes
Have you ever wondered which opponents goalies fear the most? Mike McKenna of Daily Faceoff has compiled that very list, name-dropping the five one-timers that netminders would rather avoid. Interestingly, the group doesn’t include reigning back-to-back Maurice Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews.
With goal-scoring up for the third year in a row, regardless of how they’ve been tallied, it makes it that much more impressive when a group of goalies can rise above and perform as today’s best currently are. From rookies to veterans, we’ve been spoiled with some amazing entertainment thus far through 2022-23.
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Time will tell if those who rank best by the end of 2022 can maintain their pace the rest of the way. Either way, as the calendar flips to 2023, you can continue to count on the NHL Goalie Report to keep you up to date with the most relevant storylines the whole way through.