Ranking the Most Intriguing Goalie Battles in the 2014-15 NHL Season
There is nothing busier at times than a regulation NHL goal crease. It is a blue, 1.8-meter half-circle full of emotion, as games are won and lost in one of the smallest areas of the ice.
Goaltending is one of the most important parts of championship NHL teams, and establishing a bona fide starter is very important.
There are a number of teams that are currently rotating netminders even though it is clear who the No. 1 guy should be—and others are just trotting out different mediocre goalies night after night.
While having two quality goalies is a plus, there comes a time when a No. 1 needs to be decided upon. If that doesn't happen, you run the risk of having another Roberto Luongo-Cory Schneider situation.
While majority of the teams already have their goaltending situation figured out, here are the most interesting goalie battles from the 2014-15 season to date.
No. 6: Chicago Blackhawks, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling
The Chicago Blackhawks' starter is Corey Crawford, but it is unclear who the team wants to have as the backup. Both Antti Raanta and Scott Darling have started three games, and each has amazing numbers.
The battle is interesting because even though Darling was reassigned after Crawford returned from injury, Chicago chose to send Raanta down and bring him back up. The Blackhawks then made another swap shortly after that, and the intrigue continues.
This season, Darling is 2-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, and Raanta is 1-2-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Currently, Raanta is back in the NHL, and it will be interesting to see if he is reassigned anytime soon.
No. 5: Philadelphia Flyers, Steve Mason and Ray Emery
The Philadelphia Flyers appeared to have found their starting goalie in Steve Mason, and they signed him to an extension last season. Despite the fact that they have been giving Mason the majority of the starts thus far, it isn't clear that he is going to be the team's No. 1 guy.
Ray Emery has been getting his fair share of starts as well, and there's a chance he could take hold of the crease if Mason doesn't step up his game. Mason is 3-6-1 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. Emery, on the other hand, has a 3.22 goals-against average, .897 save percentage and a winning record of 4-3-1 in eight games.
Going forward, it makes sense to go with the winning goalie, and it will be fun to see what happens in Philadelphia if Emery can string some wins together.
No. 4: Ottawa Senators, Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner
Robin Lehner has been touted as a goaltender with franchise potential, and he is still trying to get his full shot with the Ottawa Senators. Craig Anderson was re-signed by the Senators, and his presence was looked at as a potential obstacle for Lehner to overcome.
Thus far, Anderson has started 11 games, and he has a 5-3-3 record with a 2.23 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Lehner has started seven games, and he's 4-2-1 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Anderson has been the better goalie statistically thus far, but Lehner hasn't been given enough starts in a row to get into a consistent rhythm. It will be intriguing to see how this battle pans out going forward, because Lehner ultimately has more upside than Anderson.
No. 3: Buffalo Sabres, Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth
The Buffalo Sabres haven't had the greatest start to the season. And for some reason, they are alternating goalies even though it is clear who the No. 1 guy should be.
Michal Neuvirth has played in 10 games, and he's 3-5-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Jhonas Enroth has appeared in 11 games, and he's 2-8-1 with a 3.63 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
Buffalo has pretty much alternated goalies for most of the season, and it is baffling that Enroth has been played more even though he's been abjectly terrible.
No. 2: Arizona Coyotes, Mike Smith and Devan Dubnyk
While Mike Smith is clearly being looked upon as the Arizona Coyotes' starter, the recent play of Devan Dubnyk could create some intrigue in Glendale, Arizona. Smith has started 15 games, and he is 4-10-1 with a 3.35 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.
He's looked very shaky thus far and is in the midst of a five-game losing streak. At this point, it may be time for Arizona to ride the hot hand.
Dubnyk has been the polar opposite of Smith, and the Edmonton Oilers castoff is 4-0-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
Not only are Dubnyk's numbers solid, but he is oozing confidence. Stylistically, he is playing more aggressive, and it appears that goaltending coach Sean Burke has been a stabilizing presence for Dubnyk.
Right now, this can be looked at as a simple situation in which a backup is having some success, but this could escalate rather quickly if he can sustain his current level of play.
No. 1: St. Louis Blues: Jake Allen and Brian Elliott
Jake Allen has been considered one of the NHL's top goaltending prospects, yet the St. Louis Blues have not given him a chance to be a starter.
All he has done this season is prove his worth as a budding young netminder. Aside from a tough loss vs. the Montreal Canadiens, he's dazzled with a 5-2-1 record, 2.00 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
Brian Elliott has also played really well, posting a 7-4-1 record, 1.89 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He has been looked at as the Blues' No. 1 this season, even though the future clearly involves Allen because of his youth and upside.
Despite the fact that Allen has played well, it is baffling that he hasn't been given more of a chance to go on a run. Ultimately, he looks like he could be a franchise goalie. Elliott has played well, but Allen deserves a chance to go on a lengthy run to further prove his worth.
Stats via NHL.com.