Is the New Jersey Devils' Johan Hedberg the Best Backup Goaltender in the NHL?
The 39-year-old veteran is 1-0-1 this season with a minuscule GAA of 0.48 and added his 22nd career shutout against the New York Islanders on Sunday afternoon. He has given up just one goal this year despite taking 50 shots in two games and is a big reason why the Devils got three of a possible four points in his starts.
But Hedberg has been lights-out since signing in New Jersey and gives his team the best chance to win when he starts.
Since signing with the Devils before the 2010-11 season, Hedberg has gone 33-19-5 in 63 starts with a GAA of 2.23 and eight shutouts. Here is how those numbers compare to some of the NHL's other quality backups in that time span (h/t Hockey Reference):
Jonathan Bernier: 42 GP 16-15-5 2.48 GAA 4 SO
Martin Biron: 40 GP 21-12-2 2.30 GAA 2 SO
Cory Schneider: 62 GP 38-14-3 2.14 GAA 5 SO
Here's the bottom line: If Johan Hedberg has just five fewer wins, a similar GAA and three more shutouts than the potential future of the Vancouver Canucks, the New Jersey Devils have a pretty good backup behind Martin Brodeur.
Who is the Better Backup in the NHL?
The other key to a good backup? No controversy. Biron might be the only sure backup on the previous list, as Bernier will likely become a starter somewhere else in the future and Schneider is in a goaltender controversy with Roberto Luongo.
Hedberg has no issue being the backup to Martin Brodeur and consistently comes out and plays 110 percent whenever his number is called. He was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, "I try to be as ready as I can whenever they need me" (h/t Wall Street Journal).
Hedberg's presence in the Devils lineup makes them a better team mostly because it allows New Jersey to rest Martin Brodeur on a regular basis. Marty may be the best goaltender to ever play the game, but even the best 40-year-old needs a day or two off between games.
Sitting Brodeur for 27 games last season allowed the Devils to prepare him for the playoffs, which worked out in the team's favor as Brodeur played the in the team's final 24 games into the Stanley Cup Final.
Most importantly, Hedberg pulled out 17 wins in the process.
New Jersey has one of the best of the best behind the best of the best, and the tandem of these two goaltenders will continue to lead success if they each get enough playing time. While there may be critics that believe Hedberg is washed up and past his time, his play in 2013 is proving that he is arguably the best backup in the business.
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