When you look around the NHL, you find several teams with unquestioned no. 1 goaltenders. Barring injury, players such as Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, and Pekka Rinne will be starting every big game for their teams all year long, with an occasional break when the schedule serves up an also-ran.
But not every team’s situation is quite so settled. In some cases, the starter’s hold on the job is shaky. In others, two guys are splitting time equally.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams where the title of no. 1 goalie is still up for grabs.
The first star of Sunday's OHL game between the Erie Otters and the Niagara IceDogs was a goaltender who allowed 13 goals on 45 shots in a 13-4 loss.
Of course, he was also wearing skates that were far too small, a jersey that had been hastily assembled just days before, and goalie pads the likes of which he hadn't put on since he was 5 years old. Not to mention that, because of shoulder surgery, he hadn't played in a single game — even at center, his typical position — all season long.
This week got off to quite a start for 22-year-old Washington Capitals goaltending prospect Braden Holtby. After making 34 saves for the AHL's Hershey Bears on Sunday in their 5-1 win over Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Holtby woke up Monday morning to find out that he was being summoned to Washington, presumably because the Caps no. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun had the flu and they needed someone to back up Michal Neuvirth. Instead, when Holtby arrived around 2 p.m., he found out he was starting that night.
As the days tick down until the NHL trade deadline, these sorts of things can happen. Perhaps this was a showcase game for Holtby to let scouts take a look, or maybe the Caps organization wanted to see how they'd fare if they dealt another netminder and ended up having to use more of Holtby going forward.
Whatever it was, it did not end well: Holtby was in net for a 5-3 loss against the San Jose Sharks, a game in which the reality was somehow actually worse than the score. He bobbled a routine grab on a shot from beyond center ice, and he watched as a puck rolled up his arm, down his back, and into the goalmouth behind him. Tuesday morning he was sent back up to Hershey, back down to the AHL.
In his 42 starts, Jonathan Quick has given up an average of 1.93 goals per game, making him one of just four NHL goaltenders with a GAA below two. Unfortunately, he's been having this All-Star season behind the league's lowest-scoring team, the L.A. Kings. Quick leads all netminders in shutouts, blanking his opponents six times. In the other 36 games he's played, though, the ones where he's let even just one measly goal trickle past, Quick has come away with a loss 21 times.
Last week, I watched losses no. 20 and no. 21 at Staples Center, where the atmosphere remains vibrant even as the team's offense has not been. The two games were like so many others the Kings have played this year: On Thursday they lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Calgary Flames, and on Saturday they fell 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche. In both games, the Kings scored first but were unable to either add insurance goals or regain the lead after their opponents tied the game.