Most of this season has been focused on teams with "true" starting goaltenders, who have carried their team on their backs and into the playoffs.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov, and of course, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, are all shining examples of goalies that have taken on a bulk of the load in their respective cities and done an amazing job.
But there are teams that have relied on goaltending duos to get the job done.
Some pairings have done better than others. And a few of these teams may resort to a single goalie in the playoffs, but that doesn’t change the fact that two goalies got them to where they are now.
There are five major goalie duos that have been together for most of the season. Here they are, from worst to best.
Among the NHL’s five major goalie duos, this is the worst.
It’s still anybody’s guess as to which goalie will be starting for the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs.
Cristobal Huet has started more games, but his numbers are far from amazing.
While Huet’s 2.50 GAA is good for 11th in the league, his .895 save percentage is the fourth worst among all starting goaltenders.
Considering the defense playing in front of him, Huet’s GAA really isn’t as impressive as it might appear at first glance. The Blackhawks are first in the league, allowing just 24.8 shots against per game; the next closest team is almost a full three shots away.
But balancing out Chicago’s puck-stopping pairing is rookie Antti Niemi.
Niemi has surprised a lot of critics this year and is stepping up big time for the Blackhawks towards the end of the season.
Since the Olympic break, it is Niemi who has gotten a majority of the starts. And while the Hawks have struggled as of late, Niemi has continued his stellar play.
Niemi has gone 21-7-3, compared with Huet’s 26-14-4 record in 17 more starts. His 2.24 GAA puts Niemi right behind Miller for third in the league.
In just 29 starts, Niemi has seven shutouts—one for almost every four starts. The seven shutouts are good for second in the NHL.
Like one other tandem on this list, this one is actually more of a competition for the starting position, as opposed to a set strategy for the regular season.
Carey Price was the Montreal Canadiens’ starter at the beginning of the season, but a few rough stretches has put Jaroslav Halak in the driver’s seat heading into the playoffs.
Price’s 2.77 GAA is nothing to brag about, but his .911 save percentage is above average and proves that he definitely still has the skill to be a starter.
But the most important category for any goaltender is wins, and this is where Price’s problem lies. He is 13-20-5 on the season and has won just two games since Jan. 16.
Halak had two big stretches of games at the end of October and December that pushed him ahead of Price for the starting position; both times Halak put together four consecutive wins to pull Montreal out of sub-.500 play.
The 24-year-old‘s 25-12-3 record is an obvious reason why he will more than likely be the starter for Montreal, assuming the team makes the playoffs. But his remarkable .925 save percentage is currently tied for fourth in the league and just backs up the fact that Halak is the backbone of this “duo.”
Thanks to Halak’s incredible post-Olympic play, the Habs are just a couple of wins away from the playoffs.
The Nashville Predators have developed a solid goaltending system this season.
Pekka Rinne has established himself as the team’s true starting goalie, but Dan Ellis has provided several key victories when stepping in for Rinne.
Rinne has started 51 of the Preds’ 79 games this year. His numbers are slightly above average, but he has stolen some big wins for Nashville this season and his 30-15-5 record proves it.
The 27-year-old native of Finland has gone on two separate streaks of at least six wins this season, helping the Predators make a large jump in the Western Conference in the process.
There’s no doubt that Rinne will be the playoff starter for Nashville, but Ellis has had a fine season for the Preds.
Ellis’ .909 save percentage is good, but his 2.69 GAA is mediocre at best. However, think about what he has had to do this year for Nashville.
He rarely plays more than two games in a row—actually Ellis has done that only twice this season—which makes it incredibly difficult to get into any kind of groove.
But here is a staggering stat for you: Ellis is 5-0 this season when playing in a game after Rinne has started at least three in a row.
Not impressed yet?
Ellis has surrendered a measly eight goals in those five games.
The Preds are in great shape with the playoffs around the corner.
While Michal Neuvirth did get some time in net, this is the only acknowledgment he is getting. His numbers were actually pretty good, but Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov are the true duo on the Washington Capitals.
Theodore got full control of the reins in goal when Varlamov went down with an injury in the beginning of December. His 2.87 GAA is not good by any standards, but Theodore’s .908 save percentage is respectable and has climbed significantly in recent months.
Theodore’s numbers are average, but few goalies can put a string of 19 consecutive games without losing in regulation—and as said before, wins are the most important statistic there is.
From Jan. 13 to March 24, Theodore went 17-0-2 and helped separate the Caps from the rest of the NHL.
Varlamov’s season has been a bit of a disappointment due to a series of lower-body injuries, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what he has done in somewhat limited time.
The 21-year-old rookie’s 14-4-5 record shows he has made the best of the time he has gotten. His 2.52 GAA is significantly better than Theodore’s and his .909 save percentage has been hurt by several bad starts since returning from his injury.
Either way the Caps decide to go in the playoffs, they have two very reliable goaltenders.
Like the situation in Montreal, the Boston Bruins have two goalies fighting for the top spot; but collectively they have two fantastic netminders.
There’s no taking away what Tim Thomas did last season. Taking home the Vezina Trophy was more than deserved for the longtime goalie.
But this season has been a different story.
Thomas’ 16-18-8 record shows that he has struggled. His 2.55 GAA and .915 save percentage show that he can still play, but his sloppy play as of late has called into question whether he can still start.
Thomas has been pulled six times this season—twice in the last three games.
Another year seems to have slowed the 35-year-old goaltender down a little, as he is not getting to the rebounds he stopped last season.
Thomas’ inconsistent play has left the door wide open for rookie Tuukka Rask.
Rask’s numbers this season are mind-blowing. His .930 save percentage and 1.99 are both tops in the league. Some critics will point to his limited play as the cause for his inflated stats, which may be true, but it doesn’t change how well he is playing.
Boston is barely staying afloat in the Eastern Conference playoffs race, but it can be assumed that Rask will start most of the Bruins’ remaining games.
Either way you look at it, both goalies have done an amazing job this season considering the Bruins have scored the fewest goals in the NHL.