All NHL fans know that in recent years, goaltending has taken a back seat in the world of professional hockey, but possibly more surprising this particular season are the names of some of the netminders who have stepped into the spotlight and become consistent, everyday starters for their clubs.
There are any number of reasons by which these particular players have become thrust into starting roles. Whether it be due to another player’s injury or something else all together, these men behind the masks have been showcasing what they are capable of in front of the masses in 2013.
In 2012, Tim Thomas was, by all accounts, the best goalie in the National Hockey League. The same can probably be said for 2011 as well. Despite Thomas’ abrupt departure, Boston fans have no reason to worry any time soon. Both Tuuka Rask and Andre Khudobin have been stellar in Thomas’ absence, combining for 20 wins, a 2.1 GAA and a .922 save percentage and the Bruins are playing better than ever, sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference.
Speaking of abrupt departures; the Ottawa Senators and their fans must have been wondering about their club’s luck when leading goaltender Craig Anderson went down with injury earlier this season. At the time of the injury, Anderson was leading all NHL goalies in save percentage (.952) and GAA (1.49). Since Anderson’s injury however both Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop have stepped up in huge fashion. Lehner, a 21-year old from Sweden has been most impressive, allowing just 2.05 goals against per contest and saving a dominant 94 percent of shots against him, despite earning just three wins thus far.
Before the strike ended, the Anaheim Ducks were probably considered a borderline playoff team, but it’s safe to say that not many expected them to have 22 wins by the end of March, sitting pretty with the second most points in the entire league to date. Much of this team’s success can be attributed to young Swedish netminder Viktor Fasth, who at 30 years of age has come practically out of nowhere to earn starting time this year. Once an afterthought, Fasth has gone on an 11-2-1 tear through his first 14 starts this season, allowing just a 2.15 GAA and holding an outstanding .922 save percentage with a couple of shutouts, to boot. Mind you, Jonas Hiller hasn’t been too bad either.
Raise your hand if you thought that Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets would be a top five goaltender heading into the 2013 season. Yeah, me neither. Bobrovsky apparently had a terrific off season while playing in the KHL during the strike and it’s finally starting to show in his form lately – and at a key time for the Blue Jackets, I might add. The 24-year old headed into 2013 competing with Steve Mason for the starting job, but has taken the bull by the horns, so to speak. The Blue Jackets have lost just one game in regulation since February 24th and are within striking distance of a playoff berth with just 16 games left to play. Bobrovsky has been a key part of the team’s newfound success, allowing just 2.17 GAA with a save percentage of .927. He also has 11 of his team’s 13 wins, all season to his credit.
Now that’s truly stepping up when it counts the most.
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