We here in Detroit are one of like 5 teams that have a star goaltender who is actually playing like a star goaltender. Almost every other team has either a star goalie playing like crap, a crap goalie playing way above his skill level, or in rare instances, a crap goalie playing like crap. Let's try and figure out just what is going on and whether or not it's possible for the team/goalie to fix it.
First let's get the top tier goalies who are playing like top tier goalies out of the way. These are
1. Jimmy Howard (DET. 18-6-1, 1.82 GAA, .932 SV%)
2. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT. 15-7-2, 2.27 GAA, .917 SV%)
3. Miikka Kiprusoff (CAL. 14-10-1, 2.38 GAA, .919 SV%)
4. Tim Thomas (BOS. 13-5-0, 1.92 GAA, .938 SV%)
5. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR. 12-6-4, 2.03 GAA, .933 SV%)
6. Niklas Backstrom (MIN. 11-6-2, 2.08 GAA, 932 SV%)
7. Jonathan Quick (LAK. 11-9-4, 2.14 GAA, .929 SV%)
8. Carey Price (MON. 12-8-7, 2.22 GAA, .920 SV%)
9. Pekka Rinne (NAS. 13-9-4, 2.52 GAA, .921 SV%)
And though I hesitate to call him "top-tier"
10. Antti Niemi (SJS. 11-6-3, 2.33 GAA, .919 SV%)
So 1/3rd of the league's top goaltenders are earning their keep and aren't the topic of this discussion so let's move on to the "crap goalies playing like crap goalies"
1. Craig Anderson (OTT. 13-10-2, 3.36 GAA, .897 SV%) It's hard to call Anderson a "crap" goaltender after his stellar 2010 season but he's since failed to duplicate his performance for any period of time so there you are
2. Steve Mason (COB. 4-12-1, 3.46 GAA, .882 SV%) It's Steve Mason. He's the purest definition of "crap" there is. His struggles come as no surprise to anyone except the moronic Blue Jacket's front office.
Now let's quickly shift over to the "crap goaltenders playing far above their skill level and how long until the inevitable return to form for them?"
1. Brian Elliott (STL. 12-2-0, 1.46 GAA, .947 SV%) I'm going to come right out and say it. Brian Elliott sucks. It's a miracle he's playing the way he is right now and St. Louis should enjoy it while it lasts, which probably won't be too much longer. (Let's not forget this is the guy Colorado traded for last season to help them tank the second half of their season.)
2. Nikolai Kha-ha-habibulin (EDM. 10-6-3, 1.95 GAA, .933 SV%) NikoDUI DUIbibulin makes his triumphant return to hockey after doing his court-ordered month in prison, which apparently is the secret to not being terrible in net. Can he keep it up? I'm guessing not. He probably won't be terrible like the last two seasons, but right now his GAA is .18 higher than his career best and his SV% is .10. And he's almost 40.
3. Jose Theodore (FLA. 11-6-4, 2.36 GAA, .923 SV%) Jose ("Former Calder trophy winner!") Theodore benefits from both the Panthers playing great hockey and playing in a division where all the other teams are playing like shit. Once Washington and Tampa Bay turn things around (which you have to assume they will) Theodore won't be able to pad his stats against his divisional rivals any longer.
4. Mike Smith (PHO. 13-8-3, 2.49 GAA, .923 SV%) Smith plays for a team coached by Dave Tippet who can make any crappy goalie look far better than he really is. He's shown signs of regressing back to being Mike Smith the past 5 games posting a SV% of .816. Unless Dave Tippet really is magical expect Smith's recent play to be an indicator of his skills rather than his play at the start of the season.
And now (finally) on to the actual meat of this article, the "star goalies playing like shit". Of which there are many. Far too many...
1. Ryan Miller (BUF. 7-6-2, 2.81 GAA, .912 SV%) We're gonna start off with Ryan "bodychecking practice" Miller. He's the closest one to playing like himself with a good SV% and an inflated GAA due to Buffalo giving up tons of shots against each game. Not really much to discuss here, he'll return to form soon (assuming he doesn't get dogpiled by everyone on the other team and ends up missing an extended period of time)
2. Tomas Vokoun (WAS. 2.81 GAA, .906 SV%) I've made my feelings on Vokoun abundantly clear on here before. Right now the entire Capitals team is struggling and their defensemen aren't doing him any favors. Still he's let in far too many softies of late and that certainly isn't helping himself or his teammates any. Seeing as how backup Michael Neuvirth has the worst stats of any goalie in the NHL (seriously) his job is safe and he should turn things around shortly.
3. Roberto Luongo (VAN. 11-6-2, 2.60 GAA, .905 SV%) Mr. "Pump my tires" himself has gotten off to a bad start giving the already far too hostile Vancouver fanbase another reason to call for his head on a platter and cause Canucks reporters to think up retarded trade ideas involving a certain Tampa Bay captain. However, Reboundo plays for a loaded Canucks team and when he's on his meds is an elite goaltender enough to rival almost any other in the league. (Not that that'll stop us from making fun of him)
4. Jaroslav Halak (STL. 5-7-3, 2.37 GAA, .903 SV%) Halak had an absolutely turrible start to the year which eventually cost him the starting job in favor of Brian Elliott (which is like losing your starting job to Hellen Keller). In the limited playtime he's had since than he's been great and now just needs to wait a little bit longer before the starters job is his again. And unless St. Louis pulls a Dallas, expect whichever team that faces them in the playoffs to have a hard time advancing.
5. Ondrej Pavelec (WIN. 11-10-4, 3.11 GAA, .903 SV%) While not exactly an elite goaltender (yet) Pavelec is expected to be the franchise goaltender for the TrasherJets over the next decade or so and might need another year or two to get to that level. Still he can steal a game once in a while (though he can just as easily lose a game too). He's playing behind a bottom 5 team so his stats are never going to be pretty though they shouldn't be this ugly for very much longer. Expect something like 3.00 GAA and a .900-.910 SV% by the end of the year.
6. Jonas Hiller (ANA. 7-12-5, 3.12 GAA, .901 SV%) After giving the Trapville Predators their first ever postseason series victory last season (and having Corey Perry win the Hart) the Ducks had high expectations coming into this season even moreso after Teemu Selanne decided that since Lids was coming back he would too. Now the Ducks are exposed for what they really are. A one-line offense with the rest coming from Selanne (and supposedly Lubomir Visnovsky though he's been riding the IR for a month and had been useless in the games he'd played before that). Vertigo is an enigma in net. When he's on top of his game he's nigh unstoppable (see 09 Wings-Ducks series, Switzerland games from the 2010 Winter Olympics). But this year it seems like he's an entirely different goaltender playing for a suddenly (shouldn't be all that surprising really) terrible team. I honestly have no idea if he can/will turn things around. He has the skills to but it's impossible to tell if he'll remember how to use them anytime in the near future.
7. Ilya Bryzgalov (PHI. 14-5-2, 2.75 GAA, .901 SV%) In the first year of his retarded contract, Bryz has been underwhelming (to say the least) for his new team (not that it's any different. He's a Flyers goaltender after all!). On the one hand, you expect he'll turn things around. On the other, you realize the numbers he put up over the last couple years were under a Dave Tippet system and now that he's not in Phoenix anymore might explain the regression. I think Bryz is a good goaltender, not an elite one like his contract implys. I expect something like a 2.50 GAA, .915-.920 SV% from him. (Why you heff to be like that?)
8. Semyon Varlamov (COL. 10-12-1, 3.05 GAA, .898 SV%) Mr. Phil Kessel 2.0 has poor stats because he's not yet at the level of an elite goaltender and he's playing for a shitty team. Not really anything here too surprising. Expect numbers similar to Pavelec's at years end and Colorado to watch this years top 5 draft pick go to the Capitals..
9. Cam Ward (CAR. 9-13-4, 3.32 GAA, 8.98 SV%) Cam Ward is a bit puzzling. You wouldn't expect him to be anywhere near this bad figuring he's always been one of the best goalies in the league. Then you look at his career regular season numbers and see it's a mirror reflection of his 05-06 rookie season (14-8-2, 3.68, .882) (which spells good things for the Canes if they can get into the playoffs I guess). He usually finishes somewhere between .915-920 every year so it's reasonable to expect him to turn things around soon.
10. Corey Crawford (CHI. 12-7-2, 3.00 GAA, .897 SV%) I'm sorry I meant to put Crawford in the "crap goalies playing like crap" section but I messed up. His record is inflated heavily by the fact that the Hawks offense can score 5 goals for every 4 he gives up. He's currently sitting on the bench after losing his starters job to Ray Emery. I wouldn't expect things to change much for Crawford. Realistically he's just not that good of a goaltender.
11. Martin Brodeur (NJD. 7-8-0, 3.09 GAA, .886 SV%) Fatty's decent into old age continues which somehow comes as a shock to people that apparently can't remember how bad he's been the past few years (excluding 09-10 he's either sucked or been injured for most of the year). Despite playing behind the most mind-numbingly boring team to watch in the league he's managed to put up terrible numbers and is fighting with Johan fucking Hedberg for the starters role. Unfortunately Fatty's age finally seems to be affecting his play and a turnaround at this point seems unlikely. Expect him to retire or sign a backup role somewhere at the end of the season.
12. Dwayne Roloson (TBL. 6-8-1, 3.67 GAA, .882 SV%) The goaltending version of Chris Chelios, Roly-Poly Roloson has finally seemed to run out of water from the Fountain of Youth to drink. In the past he's singlehandedly carried mediocre teams far into the postseason (2006 Oilers, 2011 Lightning) but this year he's off to the worst start of any starting goaltender (whose name isn't Steve Mason) and the Lightning are desperately looking for help in net. The chances of Do-A-Barrel-Roloson turning things around are about as high as his chances of coming back for another season (unless the Lightning get into the postseason, at which point all bets are off).
There are three teams I excluded:
2. Toronto. Optimus Reimer has just returned from injury so it's far too soon to make any serious observations.
3. Dallas. Kari Lehtonen would be on the "star goalies playing like star goalies" list but he's currently on the IR for the umpteenth billion time so I had to exclude him and his team.
Now with Brian Elliot watch and updates!