Here’s the second of two articles covering the Eastern Conference goaltending. A look at what to expect in the upcoming season. Let’s go:
Starter: Kari Lehtonen
Back up: Johan Hedberg
Outlook: Lehtonen had a career year with 34 wins, 2.79 goals against average, .912 save percentage and four shutouts. Combine that with the fact he was named Best Goalie at the last World Championships and the second overall pick from the 2002 entry draft should improve upon last season’s breakout performance. Back up Johan Hedberg is well respected by his team mates and provides reliable goaltending when Lehtonen needs a night off. The goaltending situation in Atlanta is stable.
Projected Starter: Manny Fernandez
Projected Back up: Tim Thomas/Hannu Toivonen (Dobber's note: since traded, after article submitted)
Outlook: Fernandez should enter the season as number one, but if his knee problems persist or he doesn’t get the job done, a split with either Thomas or Toivonen is possible (Dobber – not anymore!). The Thomas/Toivonen situation bears watching as having three goalies around can be a distraction. A trade is one possibility (Dobber – indeed it is!). The Bruins signed Tuukka Rask last season and he will apprentice in the AHL this year. Toivonen could be sent down to work with his fellow Finn Rask. With new coach Claude Julien, the Bruins will be a better coached team and are likely to improve defensively.
Starter: Cam Ward
Back up: John Grahame
Outlook: Now entering his third NHL season, bigger things are expected from the 2006 Conn Smythe winner. Ward is only 23 years old and will be looking to bounce back from a less than stellar year. The wins will likely be in the 30-35 range, but the goals against average (2.93) and save percentage (.897) clearly need to improve. Veteran John Grahame will again provide back up services.
Starter: Tomas Vokoun
Projected Back up: Craig Anderson
Outlook: Vokoun is a proven quality NHL netminder. Florida’s offence received a minor boost with the recent signings of Richard Zednik, Brett McLean and Radek Dvorak. Craig Anderson will be a very capable back up when, I mean if, Vokoun ends up on the injured list. Anderson started only three games last season for the Panthers. His numbers in recording one win, one overtime loss and one loss were an excellent 2.21 goals against average and .931 save percentage.
Starter: Cristobal Huet
Projected Back up: Jaroslav Halak/Carey Price
Outlook: Huet will be the No.1 guy this year, with Halak settling into the back up role. Carey Price looked stellar last year in helping Canada win gold at the World Junior Championships and the Hamilton Bulldogs win the AHL’s Calder Cup. He was the tournament MVP and Top Goalie at the World Juniors, CHL Goalie of the Year and the AHL playoff MVP. Price is the youngest player ever to win the AHL playoff MVP trophy. The soon to be 20 year old will likely spend at least one full year apprenticing in the minors. This guy is going to be a star in the ve