Wild West: Goalie Usage

Grant Campbell


I rarely write about goalies in the NHL, because quite frankly they are all a little strange and usually unpredictable. Every season, there seem to be one or two goalies who were playing in the Swedish 3rd division or the league below the ECHL and emerge to win 10 games in a row and propel their team to the playoffs. I'm exaggerating a little, but the position of goaltending is by and far the most difficult and demanding in hockey and prone to big swings in performance level and subject to injury.

I assume almost everyone has been in a position where they are sitting beside someone watching a game and that person says with authority that a goalie should have had that stop, while the opposing player had a breakaway from the center line on in. I'm pretty sure that goalies are second only to referees in terms of unfounded criticism. The mental aspect to keep their confidence level high is a huge challenge and not something every goalie is equipped for. Add in fatigue for a goalie to play 50 or more games and even fewer goalies can put up consistent numbers year in year out.

I can't avoid goalies any longer, so we will look at the goalies in the West and see how they are faring early on this year.

Anaheim Ducks:

John Gibson has struggled a little but has played better than backup Anthony Stolarz. Gibson has managed three wins in seven starts with three quality starts while posting a 2.93 GAA and a 90.6 save percentage and negative goals saved above average (GSAA) of -0.39.

Stolarz has managed one quality start in his three games but has yet to get a win. His GAA is 3.63 and his save percentage is 89.8 with a GSAA of minus 1.06. Stolarz will need to be a little better to hold on to 30 percent of the starts in Anaheim, which equals about 25 starts. Gibson has played 60 and 58 games before, but I'm sure the Ducks would like to have him in the 50-55 range.

Current split: 70/30

Arizona Coyotes:

What a few people saw happening has happened, with Karel Vejmelka emerging as the 1A in Arizona, as Carter Hutton struggled mightily and then was injured after three games. Ivan Prosvetov has entered the picture as well with one start so far. Vejmelka has been a little shell-shocked at times but has been coming on and although still winless in seven games he has lowered his GAA to 2.63 and raised his save percentage to 92.0 with a positive GSAA of 2.31.

The bigger issue is how bad the Coyotes have been and whether this team will even win 20 games this year.

Current split: 70/30

Calgary Flames:

With three shutouts in his past four starts, Jacob Markstrom is back on form from two seasons ago and the Flames will need to ensure that he isn't overworked as he can be prone to tiring and losing his form. Markstrom boasts a GAA of 1.33 with a save percentage of 95.7 and trails only Frederick Andersen in Carolina with a GSAA of 9.11 in his six starts. Daniel Vladar has played a few games and even though he has won both games he will need to be better. We should expect Markstrom to see 50-55 starts and Vladar 25-30 starts. Markstrom did have back-to-back seasons of 60 starts in Vancouver, but 50-55 would be ideal in Calgary this year.

Current split: 75/25

Chicago Blackhawks:

It appears that everything, including goaltending, has been disastrous in Chicago