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If disaster strikes... backup goalies

Thursday, 04.15.2010 / 12:13 PM / 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Quarterfinals

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

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If disaster strikes... backup goalies
What is the backup plan should a No. 1 goalie falter in the playoffs?
Almost every NHL general manager with a team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will tell you the worst thing that can happen to his team is to lose his starting goaltender to injury or ineffective play.

While that might be a stretch for the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins -- remember those guys names Ovechkin and Crosby? -- it certainly applies for the other 14 Stanley Cup contenders.

But what if disaster strikes? Which team is best positioned to replace its starter?

The thinking here is that a backup goaltender's overall career record and playoff experience are more important than the record he compiled this season as a backup. After all, Boston Bruins backup goaltender Tim Thomas is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and Detroit Red Wings backup Chris Osgood has won the Stanley Cup twice. Yet both lost their starting jobs this season to Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Howard respectively.

 
The teams that would be hurt the worst if they lost their starting goaltender this spring would include the New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks. We were prepared to add Buffalo to that list before we saw Patrick Lalime's 1.77 career playoff goals-against average in 41 games.

Only three goalies in this year's playoffs have won the Stanley Cup as the starter, Martin Brodeur, Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury. Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Jean-Sebastien Giguere with Anaheim in 2007.

The player records below show the number of games played, wins-losses-shootout losses, shutouts, goals-against average and save percentage. In the case of some older veterans, their records show wins-losses-ties-shutout losses. Here are the goalie tandems for the 16 teams contesting the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals
Jose Theodore
2009-2010:
47g, 30-7-7, 1, 2.81, .911
NHL Career: 548g, 245-221-30-22, 29, 2.68, .908
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 49g, 19-27, 1, 2.79, .913
Comment: Theodore, 33, is the 2002 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner. He went 20-0-3 since Jan. 13 with a 2.58 goals against average and a .922 save percentage to recapture the job he lost in Game 1 of last year's playoff series against the Rangers.

Semyon Varlamov
2009-2010:
26g, 15-4-6, 2, 2.55, .909
NHL Career: 32g, 19-4-7, 2, 2.52, .911
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 13g, 7-6, 2, 2.53, .918
Comment: Varlamov, 21, was Washington's first-round pick in 2006. He was spectacular for 15 games at the end of last season, going 4-0-1 at the end of the regular season, beating the New York Rangers in seven games and holding the Penguins down for the first three games of their second-round series before giving up 19 goals in the final four games. He was the Washington starter at the beginning of this season, but developed groin problems in December and lost his job to Theodore.
 
Montreal Canadiens
Jaroslav Halak
2009-2010:
45g, 26-13-5, 5, 2.40, .924
NHL Career: 101g, 56-34-7, 9, 2.62, .919 
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 3g, 0-1
Comment: Halak, 24, was the Canadiens' best player this season and the biggest reason the No. 8 seed is in the playoffs by one point over the Rangers. Halak became the No. 1 goalie at midseason.

Carey Price
2009-2010:
41g, 13-20-5, 0, 2.77, .912
NHL Career: 134g, 60-48-12, 4, 2.73, .912
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 15g, 5-10, 2, 3.11, .895
Comment: Price, 22, was Montreal's first-round pick in 2005. He played 26 of the first 36 games before encountering groin problems in December that lasted into February. He played only nine of the final 36 games.
 
New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur
2009-2010:
77g, 45-25-6, 9, 2.24, .916
NHL Career: 602g, 324-105-29, 110, 2.21, .914
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 176g, 98-79, 23, 1.98 GAA, .922
Comment: Brodeur, 37, is one of the best, if not the greatest goalie in NHL history. The Devils' first-round pick in 1990 has three Stanley Cups, may get his fifth Vezina Trophy this year, five Jennings Trophies, and has been named to seven NHL All-Star Teams. The 1994 Calder Memorial Trophy winner holds the NHL record of 110 shutouts, better than once every six games. A year after missing 50 games with an elbow injury, he tied the second-highest games-played total in his career.

Yann Danis
2009-2010:
12, 3-2-1, 0, 2.05, .923
NHL Career: 49g, 16-21-4, 3, 2.69, .912
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Danis, 28, has followed the route that NHL goalies pursued in the old days, tested and toughened for years in the minors. Until a year ago, he toiled in obscurity, except for a phenomenal senior year (2004) at Brown where he swept the ECAC trophy table and was named an All American. He has 286 minor-league games experience and his record this season shows he can come off the bench and win.

Philadelphia Flyers
Brian Boucher
2009-2010:
33g, 9-18-3, 1, 2.76, .899
NHL Career: 280g, 101-121-30-10, 17, 2.72, .900
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 22g, 11-8, 1, 2.06, .916 save percentage.
Comment: Boucher, 33, is the last man standing after Ray Emery, Michael Leighton and Johan Backlund were injured while starting in front of him. The Flyers' first-round pick in 1995, Boucher was given the No. 1 job when Emery underwent surgery in December, but Boucher had a finger crushed by a shot and surrendered the job to Leighton. He became the starter again when Leighton was hurt on March 16 and went 5-6-2. This is the only first-round playoff series this year matching starting goalies who were their team's first-round draft picks. The Washington-Montreal series is the only one with two first-round picks of their current teams sitting on the bench.

Johan Backlund
2009-2010:
1g, 0-1-0, 0, 3.00, .917
NHL Career: 1g, 0-1-0, 0, 3.00, .917
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Backlund, 28, has played part of one NHL game and has never played in the playoffs. He's been troubled by groin problems this season. Backlund was an excellent goalie in Sweden, an All-Star in 2007 and their goalie at the World Championships that year. He played well for the AHL Adirondack Phantoms
this year.

Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller
2009-2010:
69g, 41-18-8, 5, 2.22, .929
NHL Career: 333g, 187-104-1-33, 17, 2.57, .914
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 34g, 20-14, 1, 2.40, .915
Comment: Miller, 29, led the league in goals-against average and save percentage until late in the season when Rask played enough games to qualify. He finished second in both categories. Buffalo's fifth-round pick in 1999 is widely regarded as the goalie most capable of "stealing" a game his team otherwise couldn't win. 

Patrick Lalime
2009-2010:
16g, 4-8-2, 0, 2.81, .907
NHL Career: 437g, 200-169-32-16, 35, 2.57, .905
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 41g, 21-20, 5, 1.77, .926
Comment: Lalime, 35, was one of the NHL's top goaltenders when he played for Ottawa from 1999-2004. Lalime struggled for victories during the regular season, but his internal numbers (GAA and save percentage) were better than his results. Sometimes a team just plays better in front of one goalie than another. When he's in shutout mode, once in every eight playoff games, it's lights out.

Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask
2009-2010:
45g, 22-12-5, 5, 1.97, .931
NHL Career: 50g, 25-13-6, 6, 2.01, .930
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Rask, 23, was Toronto's first-round pick in 2005. He was acquired in a deal for Andrew Raycroft the next season. Rask had two solid seasons at Providence and earned the backup job at training camp. He started only 17 of the first 45 games but played 25 of the last 34. He is very well positioned and quick with his glove, feet and body. He dropped too many shots in the games I saw but it never seemed to cost him.

Tim Thomas
2009-2010:
43g, 17-18-8, 5, 2.56, .915
NHL Career: 262g, 126-91-35, 17, 2.61, .918
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 18g, 10-8, 1, 2.16, .926
Comment: Thomas, 35, didn't secure an NHL job until he was 31, playing college, European and minor-league hockey. He's the only goalie in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs to have played in the ECAC, IHL, ECHL, AHL, Finnish and Swedish leagues. Thomas won the 2009 Vezina Trophy, but lost his job this season to a goalie, Rask, that experts have long thought will be one of the really great ones. Thomas was outstanding in the 4-3 shootout win last Sunday against the Capitals in what amounted to a shooting gallery as Capitals chased personal seasonal goals.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury

2009-2010: 67g, 37-21-6, 1, 2.65, .905
NHL Career: 302g, 148-106-2-30, 16, 2.82, .907
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 49g, 31-18, 3, 2.45, .916
Comment: Fleury, 25, was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 Entry Draft. He joins Brodeur as the only two starting goalies in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs who have won the Cup. Detroit backup Chris Osgood is the only other Stanley Cup winner in this year's playoffs. Fleury faces the tough task of trying to be the first netminder to successfully defend the Stanley Cup since Tom Barrasso in 1992.

Brent Johnson
2009-2010:
23g, 10-6-1, 0, 2.76, .906
NHL Career: 270g, 121-100-13-13, 13, 2.64, .903
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 12g, 5-6, 3, 1.84, .931
Comment: Johnson, 33, hasn't been in a playoff game since 2002, when he started for the St. Louis Blues and won a round. He had one of the better records as a backup this season.

Ottawa Senators
Brian Elliot
2009-2010:
55g, 29-18-4, 5, 2.57, .909
NHL Career: 87g, 46-26-7, 6, 2.62, .907
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Elliott, 25, was a ninth-round pick in 2003, the second-last pick of the draft, before he led Wisconsin to the 2006 NCAA title. He's making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in his first full NHL season. He split time between Ottawa and AHL Binghamton last year and was Binghamton's starter  the year before. Elliott had a nine-game win streak before the Olympic and won six in a row near season's end. He's 2-0 against Pittsburgh this year.

Pascal Leclaire
2009-2010:
34g, 12-14-2, 0, 3.20, .887
NHL Career: 159g, 57-69-0-14, 10, 2.89, .903
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Leclaire, 27, was Columbus's first-round pick in 2001. He was the starter until he broke his jaw in November, came back in January and went 3-5, then suffered a concussion in February. Ottawa is the only Eastern Conference team whose goalies have no Stanley Cup Playoff experience.
 

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks
Evgeny Nabokov
2009-2010:
71 44 16 - 10 4194 3 170 2168 2.43 .922
NHL Career: 563 293 178 29 37 32492 50 1294 14757 2.39 .912
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 65 32 31 - - 3930 6 146 1711 2.23 .915
Comment: Nabokov, 34, the 2001 Calder Trophy winner has never missed the playoffs in his nine NHL seasons, a remarkable record and he has a winning career postseason record. His 44 victories were second-highest in the NHL this season. He was sixth in save percentage and 10th in goals-against average. Nabokov is an old veteran with a world of experience. He's one of the most aggressive goalies in challenging shooters and cutting down angles. He had a bad spell that included the Olympics and the six NHL games that followed but he finished 7-1-1.

Thomas Greiss
2009-2010:
16g, 7-4-1, 0, 2.68 .912
NHL Career: 19g, 7-5-2, 0, 2.77 .906
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Germany's goalie in the past two Olympics, Greiss, 24, played three seasons with AHL Worcester before being promoted to San Jose backup this season. He played very sporadically, as evidenced by his three-game winning streak from December to February.
 
Colorado Avalanche
Craig Anderson
2009-2010:
71g, 38-25-7, 7, 2.63, .917
NHL Career: 180g, 74-68-2-18, 14, 2.77, .913
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Anderson, 28, was brilliant in the first month of the season, laying a foundation that returned the Avalanche to the playoffs after a year's absence and ahead of when most observers thought their rebuilding plan would become productive. A nine-year veteran of weak NHL teams, Anderson makes his
Stanley Cup Plaoff debut.

Peter Budaj
2009-2010:
15g, 5-5-2, 1, 2.64, .917
NHL Career: 197g, 86-70-23, 8, 2.74, .903
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 3g, 0-0, 0, 3.33, .908
Comment: Budaj, 27, was Colorado's starter last year. He played very sporadically for the Avalanche this season, but went 2-2-1 during a five-game span in early December when Anderson hurt his neck.
 
Chicago Blackhawks
Antti Niemi
2009-2010:
39g, 26-7-4, 7, 2.25, .912
NHL Career: 42g, 27-8-5, 7, 2.32 .910
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Niemi, 26, is a sports-talk radio broadcaster's dream: You can argue both sides whether he's good or bad. Seven shutouts from 26 wins says he's good. His fourth-best goals-against average supports that until you see his .912 save percentage, only 20th in the NHL, that says his team is better than he is. More than a few observers think the Blackhawks have the skaters to win the Stanley Cup, but not the goalies. To Niemi's credit, nothing you say bothers him and he stepped into an opportunity and kept the job. Only three No. 1 goalies in the West have Stanley Cup experience so Niemi's not the only one in
this position.

Cristobal Huet
2009-2010:
48g, 26-14-4, 4, 2.50, .895
NHL Career: 272g, 129-90-11-21, 24, 2.46, .913
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 16g, 6-10, 0, 2.73, .917
Comment: Huet, 34, hasn't played since surrendering seven goals to the Blue Jackets on March 25; has played only once since March 14 and hasn't won since March 5 against the Canucks. He won seven-straight in November, then became inconsistent and lost the starting job to Niemi.
 
Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne
2009-2010:
58g, 32-16-5, 7, 2.53, .911
NHL Career: 113g, 62-32-9, 14, 2.46, .914
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Rinne, 27, is the only player in the NHL skinnier than Ryan Miller but at 6-foot-5, he fills a lot of net. Rinne went 12-4-1 with a 2.03 GAA, .928 save percentage and four shutouts since the Olympic break. Rinne played three years in the Finnish league and two with AHL Milwaukee before winning the Predators' No. 1 job last year.

Dan Ellis
2009-2010:
31g, 15-13-1, 1, 2.69, .909
NHL Career: 111g, 50-42-8, 10, 2.64, .912
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 6g, 2-4, 0, 2.52, .938
Comment: Ellis, 29, helped put the University of Nebraska-Omaha hockey program on the map earlier in the decade. He went undrafted, but led the NHL in save percentage in 2008. The Predators think Ellis is a good goaltender, but that Rinne will be great. 

Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo
2009-2010:
68g, 40-22-4, 4, 2.57, .913
NHL Career: 612g, 270-254-33-35, 51, 2.57, .918
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 10g, 6-4, 1, 2.52, .914
Comment: Luongo, 31, had long been regarded as the best goalie with nothing to show for it until he won Olympic gold in February. But he hasn't been good for the Canucks since the Olympic break. Luongo had a 3.35 GAA and .892 save percentage in his last 22 games. Things got worse: He had a 3.44 GAA and .889 save percentage in his last six games. A couple of years back, Luongo was Vancouver's team leader and was named honorary captain.

Andrew Raycroft
2009-2010:
21g, 9-5-1, 1, 2.42, .911
NHL Career: 251g, 103-101-10-17, 7, 2.87, .900
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 7g, 3-4, 1, 2.15, .924
Comment: The 2004 Calder Trophy winner hasn't appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since that year. Raycroft, 29, had one of the better backup seasons this year in the NHL. He's always had a lot of drive, a good work ethic and faith in himself but hasn't been able to hold on to a starter's job, although all his opportunities were with declining teams. If he had to fill in for Luongo, and did a good job, it would surprise a lot of people, but not others.

Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick
2009-2010:
72g, 39-24-7, 4, 2.54, .907
NHL Career: 119g, 61-44-9, 8, 2.54, .908
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Quick, 24, enters the playoffs off a 2-5-4 run, not pretty. Including the two games he started and didn't get a decision, Quick was winless in his last eight starts. Here's the worst part: The Kings wanted Quick to get a win before the season ended, but when they decided they needed a win Sunday against Colorado, they started Ersberg, and won.

Erik Ersberg
2009-2010:
11g, 4-3-2, 0, 2.40, .906
NHL Career: 53g, 18-19-10, 2, 2.55, .910
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Ersberg, 28, was a career minor-league goalie in Sweden until his last two seasons there. He had a losing AHL record and is one game under .500 in the NHL. When the Kings needed to win a game during Quick's tailspin, they brought up Jonathan Bernier from the minors for three wins. Ersberg won his last two starts, closing out the season with a win against Colorado.

Jonathan Bernier
2009-2010:
3g, 3-0-0, 1, 1.30, .957
NHL Career: 7g, 4-3-0, 1, 2.84, .906
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: Bernier, 21, was the Kings' first pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. He was recently voted the best AHL goalie this past season. Many people see him as the Kings' goalie of the future. If things don't go right for Quick, the future may be now.

Detroit Red Wings
Jimmy Howard
2009-2010:
63g, 37-15-10, 3, 2.26, .924
NHL Career: 72g, 38-20-10, 3, 2.32, .922
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 1g, 0-1, 3.00, .914
Comment: Howard, 26, was Detroit's second-round pick in 2003. While many people believe the minor leagues are a better training ground, Howard honed his skills first in Hockey East, where surrendering more than two goals in a game calls for an entire organizational review and a bag skate. Howard came up through the American development program, played three years at Maine and four years with AHL Grand Rapids before becoming the Red Wings starter this year.

Chris Osgood
2009-2010:
23g, 7-9-4, 1, 3.02, .888
NHL Career: 733g, 396-213-66-27, 50, 2.49, .905
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 129g, 74-49, 15, 2.09, .919
Comment: We've all watched Osgood, 37, the Red Wings' Stanley Cup-winning goalie in 1998 and 2008, long enough to know coach Mike Babcock has him right where he wants him: Feeling overlooked, discarded and angry. Nothing beats an Osgood, "I told you I could do it but you didn't believe me" press conference after a Stanley Cup victory. Of all the backups in the playoffs this year, Osgood is the most likely to come in and rescue his team, if the need arises to replace a goalie who has never played in the playoffs. Osgood leads all playoff goalies in total NHL games played, regular-season and playoffs.

Phoenix Coyotes
Ilya Bryzgalov

2009-2010:
69g, 42-20-6, 8, 2.29, .920
NHL Career:  258g, 120-96-25, 16, 2.55, .914
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 16g, 9-5, 3, 1.68, .937
Comment: This is the resume of a man who won't quit or be overwhelmed by his surroundings. Bryzgalov, 29, started in the fourth level of the Russian minors and worked his way up to the big league. Then he played 199 AHL games. He has 258 NHL games under his belt and was the backup goalie on the 2007 Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup champions, who made him their second-round pick in 2000. He's big, smart and strong and won't be fazed.

Jason LaBarbera
2009-2010:
17g, 8-5-1, 0, 2.13, .928
NHL Career: 124g, 45-49-11, 4, 2.85, .906
Stanley Cup Playoffs: None
Comment: The two-time AHL goalie of the year, LaBarbera was the Kings' starting goalie in 2007-08. That was a tough team to shine on and LaBarbera has moved on. He's a big goalie but inconsistent at this level. But he was a smart free-agent signing to back up Bryzgalov and the tandem has worked well.
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