Is the Toronto Maple Leafs' Goaltending Duo the NHL's Best in 2013-14?

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 Is the Toronto Maple Leafs' Goaltending Duo the NHL's Best in 2013-14?
Derek Leung/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been an anomaly in the early part of the 2013-14 NHL season. They have won games and have been at or near the top of the Eastern Conference for the entire season. 

They have been winning despite being badly outshot and out-chanced in the majority of their games. They have been winning with timely scoring, excellent special teams and most importantly, exemplary goaltending from their first-rate duo.

The Leafs team shot differential is the second-worst in the NHL. Only the lowly Buffalo Sabres are worse in this important category. The Leafs have given up 9.8 more shots, than they have taken this season.

Additionally, their Corsi For percentage of 44.1 is the league's worst. Going into Sunday night's action, even the Edmonton Oilers were slightly better in this category. In other words, the Leafs have much less puck possession than their opponents based on the number of shots on goal, missed shots on goal and blocked shots by each team in a game.

Despite these glaring shortcomings, the Leafs are just two points out of first in the Eastern Conference with 11 wins in their first 17 games. The main reason for this is the outstanding duo of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer.

James Reimer has posted a .942 save percentage, which ranks him sixth among NHL goalies who have started at least five games in 2013-14. Bernier's save percentage is just slightly lower at .936.

These are very good numbers for both goaltenders and go a long way in explaining how the Leafs have been able to post one of the better records in the NHL this season.

Let's take a look at how the duo compares with the other top tandems, when each goalie has played a minimum of five games, in the NHL this season:

Top NHL Goaltending Duos in 2013-14
Team Duo Save Percentage G.A.A. Saves
Toronto Bernier/Reimer .936 2.35 581
Ottawa Lehner/Anderson .924 2.82 586
Colorado Varlamov/Giguere .944 1.80 451

nhl.com

There are other metrics for goaltenders, but these three categories illustrate key measurements in today's NHL. Of course wins are important, but ultimately they are a poor measure of a goaltender as he cannot generate offense directly.

There are other goalies with excellent save percentages. Josh Harding and Carey Price are two examples, but it has not been as part of a real tandem in that those two goalies will likely share a small percentage of starts with their backup goalies.

Who has the best goaltending duo in the NHL?

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Based on the key statistics, right now, the Colorado Avalanche have the best goaltending duo in the NHL. The Leafs are a close second, however, and it seems unlikely that either of these teams will be able to maintain their current team save percentage.

For Reimer, his career save percentage is .917, so his numbers are likely to regress as the season wears on. Interestingly, Bernier's career save percentage is exactly the same at .917. Therefore, his current save percentage is also likely to drop, although this is not a given with both players being relatively young with room to improve.

While the Avalanche duo is the league's best currently, it would not be surprising if the Leafs duo ascends to that spot later this year. Either way, Leafs fans can rest assured that goaltending is likely to be the least of their concerns this season, provided both goaltenders remain healthy.

 

All stats, unless otherwise noted, can be found at nhl.com  

 

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