As the NHL schedule flips to a new page of its 2022-23 calendar, all of that which made up a narrative-rich November left fans with a lot to digest heading into December. In many cases, supporters must be satisfied with what they were able to consume. Whereas, what other respective onlookers witnessed from their favourite team could have justifiably left them a little queasy.
Ensuring a goalie is cast as the main character in each, these are the most spotlight-worthy storylines that were simply impossible to ignore last month. Time will tell whether or not each headline offers its own foreshadowing of things to come, too.
NHL Stat Leaders
With the campaign having now bypassed its quarter mark, well over 30 netminders have accumulated at least 10 games played as of Nov. 30. Offering a suitable sample size for delving into league-wide comparisons.
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When it comes to wins (W), goals-against average (GAA), save percentage (SV%), shutouts (SO), and goals saved above expected per 60 (GSAx/60), these are the names that have been performing best thus far.
W: Linus Ullmark (13)
GAA: Linus Ullmark (2.00)
SV%: Linus Ullmark (.935)
SO: Three-way tie* (3)
GSAx/60: Ilya Sorokin (0.996)
*Karel Vejmelka, Ville Husso, Connor Hellebuyck
It took a quarter of the season for the Atlantic Division‘s strongest tandems to set the standings in a way that will make it that much more difficult for those attempting to climb into playoff position.
Husso Doing the Heavy Lifting in Detroit
Despite anyone still acting surprised by the success of the Detroit Red Wings thus far in 2022-23, Steve Yzerman will claim that plans are proceeding exactly as they were written up. Especially when reflecting on one of the most impactful moves he made this offseason, enhancing Detroit’s goaltending in a way that’s paid immediate dividends.
“Defensively, we have to cut the goals against down,” Yzerman said in a pre-camp Zoom call with the media. “Whether that’s through better goaltending or defensive play, hopefully the players that we brought in who play the position improve our team. And collectively, the whole mindset of the team has to change a bit.”
Alex Nedeljkovic was, without debate, Detroit’s best goalie in 2021-22. Rather than offering blanket loyalty to the former Calder Trophy finalist, though, Yzerman knew that landing a blossoming star like Ville Husso was simply too tempting to pass up.
Husso has done far more than simply fly under the radar as a Red Wing, as the 27-year-old quickly stole Nedeljkovic’s crease in the process. Considering that he’s helped Detroit accumulate 21 points of the 26 they’ve earned thus far, it all adds up.
What’s more, he’s already accumulated a 9-3-3 record, .912 SV%, 2.58 GAA, and three shutouts. Husso’s impressive run with his new city seems to have only just begun, while Nedeljkovic’s .880 SV% and 4.01 GAA suggest his struggles might be difficult to shake. It’s beyond obvious which netminder Detroit should prioritize if they want to maintain the playoff spot they currently occupy.
Murray Earning His Keep With Maple Leafs
After being out of action for about a month following his debut performance with the Toronto Maple Leafs — a losing effort, during which he set a .826 SV% and -1.48 GSAx — Matt Murray returned to action in mid-November motivated to elevate beyond that opening night failure. Especially after witnessing what Ilya Samsonov achieved in his absence.
With Samsonov taking his turn on the sideline through much of November, Murray has had a unique opportunity to gain a level of momentum not likely possible if Samsonov’s sparking stat line was in his way.
Murray has yet to lose in regulation since being back with Toronto, earning a record of 5-0-1 with a .938 SV% and 2.10 GAA during that run. Performances strong enough to lift his GSAx all the way up to a 4.7 on the season. Safe to say, Toronto will have a welcomed dilemma on their hands when this tandem is back to full strength and they are forced to select their next starter.
As some of the NHL’s all-time best players try to keep the Metropolitan Division as relevant as possible, it’s the netminders that are controlling the narrative.
Penguins Finding Reason to Prioritize Jarry
Managing the bulk of the workload between the pipes for the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2020-21, after splitting starts with Matt Murray in 2019-20, Tristan Jarry earned their No. 1 title. All the while, Casey DeSmith has been putting up solid numbers in a backup role with the hopes that he’d get his shot at stealing starts.
As expected, it was Jarry’s net as 2022-23 got underway. Winning his first four in a row, earning a .941 SV% through that span, it seemed the 27-year-old was destined to reach a new tier of success. Until he lost his next five, which put that initial foreshadowing into question while allowing DeSmith a chance to see added playing time.
Unfortunately for DeSmith, despite getting into six games in November, the 31-year-old’s additional starts didn’t do enough to solidify his case. He accumulated a modest 3-3-0 record, with a .906 SV%, 2.97 GAA, and 0.38 GSAx throughout the month. Fortunately for the Penguins, though, Jarry is returning to form.
Jarry has now earned nine of a possible 10 points through his past five contests alone, which have included a .943 SV%, 1.73 GAA, 3.4 GSAx, and one shutout. That’s the Jarry that Pittsburgh needs moving forward if they expect to secure their 17th straight playoff appearance.
Kuemper Can’t Keep Up as Former Capitals Thrive
After a decent October, during which Darcy Kuemper went 4-3-1 with a .922 SV%, 2.41 GAA, and 4.39 GSAx, it seemed that the Washington Capitals’ strategy of ridding their former tandem in exchange for the reigning Stanley Cup winner was working to their advantage. Unfortunately, as Capitals fans watch Vítek Vaněček and Samsonov rip up the league in their new cities, Kuemper’s performances have been far less consistent.
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His numbers throughout November include a losing record and a SV% range from as low as .556 to as high as 1.00. Despite the fact that he’s now riding a three-game winning streak into December, if the Capitals are looking for Kuemper to keep them competitive then he’ll have to be stringing together more than just a handful of wins every month.
As illustrated throughout the Central Division‘s rankings to this point in 2022-23, a team’s collective results may or may not directly align with their success in net.
Oettinger’s November Numbers Didn’t Help Dallas
There’s certainly no denying that Jake Oettinger has taken the NHL by storm since his debut in 2020-21. That his individual metrics have improved yearly helps build that case. As such, it was logical to assume more of the same would be coming from the Minnesota native through 2022-23.
Oettinger made good on that presumption in October, having gone 5-1-0 through the matches leading up to the loss he wasn’t able to finish late in the month as a result of an in-game injury. During that impressive initial stretch, Oettinger compiled a .960 SV%, 1.13 GAA, 8.9 GSAx, and one shutout. Unfortunately, that momentum didn’t maintain upon his return.
Since Nov. 11, despite his Dallas Stars helping him compile a winning record along the way, the future all-star has only been able to muster up a .891 SV%, 3.32 GAA, and -0.58 GSAx.
“It’s my job to make those saves when our team gives up chances,” Oettinger said. “We played really well, and to not be able to make those saves for the guys really hurts me. I just want to be able to help this team win, and I haven’t been able to do that the last few games, so it’s really disappointing.”
If the Stars are hoping to maintain their place atop the Central from here on out, they’re going to need Oettinger’s performances to align with their collective efforts far more than they did last month.
Binnington & Greiss Too Sporadic in St. Louis
The start of this season offered Jordan Binnington and Thomas Greiss a much-needed fresh start after both battled to remain relevant in 2021-22, concluding the campaign with some of the worst stats of their respective careers. As Binnington watched Husso rack up more starts than he was able to for St. Louis, Greiss failed to provide necessary backup support in Detroit. Unfortunately, neither has fared much better as the Blues’ 2022-23 duo.
Collectively, they have combined for a .901 SV%, 3.23 GAA, and -2.08 GSAx. However, Binninging having lost his last three to close out the month — earning a .840 SV%, 4.32 GAA, and -3.44 through those contests — offers all the evidence St. Louis should need when it comes to selecting their first starter in December.
Youth appears to fuel the Pacific Divison’s newsfeed in more ways than one of late, with some potential stars continuing their rise as others more proven face an unwanted free fall.
Demko No Longer the Smarter Start in Vancouver
It wasn’t too long ago that Thatcher Demko was rising among the ranks of the NHL’s best. It seemed the only thing in his way was the team in front of him, as the Vancouver Canucks simply haven’t been as competitive as some of the other teams that have enjoyed elite-level goaltending through recent years. Well, the tables have turned in 2022-23.
Rather than Demko needing more out of the Canucks, the rest of their roster is waiting for an elevation from their No. 1. Meanwhile, Spencer Martin has not only done his part to step in and steady the waters, but he’s also making a case as Vancouver’s smarter choice as the season moves forward. Despite having less than 20 games total on his resume at the moment.
After Demko achieved only one win in October, accumulating a -7.2 GSAx during that seven-game span, it made sense for the Canucks to give Martin a better look through November. Luckily they did, too, as his 5-2-0 record last month was far superior to Demko’s 2-4-1.
Interesting to note, though, both set similar numbers through that same span. Including a SV% lower than .900, a GAA higher than 3.30, and a negative GSAx. Yet, even as they share individual struggles, it’s Martin who continues to compile wins for the Canucks. Outside of giving Demko easy starts to raise his trade value, it seems most logical to ride Martin the rest of the way.
Kings Dethrone Petersen Following Consistent Failure
Seeing his start count ramp up through recent seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, the net was set to be Calvin Petersen’s whenever Jonathan Quick decided to pass his torch. A three-year extension worth $5 million per kicking in at the start of 2022-23 furthered that narrative. Unfortunately, Petersen’s play hasn’t aligned in quite the same manner.
It would seem Petersen’s teammates are to thank for his winning record, since his .868 SV%, 3.75 GAA, and -9.3 GSAx won’t accomplish much on their own. Rather, it’s that poor individual output that forced Los Angeles to place the 28-year-old on waivers, after a mere 10 starts in 2022-23. It’s now on the young goalie to turn this unfortunate setback into motivation that propels him forward through the months ahead.
More NHL Netminder News & Notes
Controversy surrounding goaltenders is nothing new. From determining fair equipment sizes to demanding that they remain within their predetermined quarters at all times. In most cases, these rules work against the netminder. Whereas, in others, the jury is still out. Such as where blame is to be placed after play is forced to stop due to a dislodged net.
A topic that was front and centre in a recent Maple Leafs game, when Murray encountered — or, as some would argue, caused — that very issue three separate times. Each instance has been scrutinized since, with opinions varying on whether or not it was Murray or the ice crew to blame. Either way, this type of spotlight could lead to policies designed to ensure any such loophole is tightened accordingly. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, the NHL has a jam-packed month ahead as it looks to close out an eventful year. Meaning, we’ll have that much more to discuss and dissect in the next edition of the NHL Goalie Report.
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