The Coaches Room is a weekly column by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. Jim Corsi, David Marcoux, Paul MacLean and Joe Mullen will take turns providing insight.
In this edition, Marcoux, former goalie coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, looks at the all-important goalie depth of NHL teams and how several organizational No. 3 goalies have been thrust into the spotlight this season.
The road to the Stanley Cup is filled with highs and lows throughout a season. Consistency, health and depth in the goaltending department can make or break contending teams' hopes of hoisting the Cup in June.
In an NHL salary cap world, we are seeing a few goaltending tandems. The New York Islanders, with Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak, and the Boston Bruins, who have Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, have found success in close to a 50-50 split in starts.
Greiss has started 14 games and Halak 13 for the Islanders (16-9-2), who are fourth in the Metropolitan Division. The Bruins (12-9-4) are fourth in the Atlantic Division thanks largely to Khudobin's 7-1-2 record in 10 starts. Rask is 5-8-2 in 15 starts.
Then there is the Vegas Golden Knights, who are second in the Pacific Division, having played five goalies this season. With Marc-Andre Fleury injured, Malcolm Subban has gone 6-2-0 in eight starts, with a 2.27 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
Most teams rely on a true No. 1 who will play 60-plus games, which makes it very difficult for backups to perform well with limited playing time. Playing once a month, usually in the second half of a back-to-back, is one of the toughest jobs in the NHL.
Even more complicated for organizations is how to handle the No. 3 goalie. Keeping that goalie busy in the minors is a priority in terms of sharpness and development but it's not always the easiest thing to do.
This season we've seen injuries to several No. 1 goalies, including Fleury, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Smith of the Calgary Flames and Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers.
It's interesting to see how organizational depth comes quickly into play when these injuries occur. Ideally, an American Hockey League goalie playing a lot of minutes is ready for an emergency recall and will try to take advantage of his opportunity.
Here is a look at how some depth goalies are doing with their NHL opportunity.
1. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1-2, 2.30 GAA, .926 save percentage)
My Grade: A+
Pittsburgh has been very patient with Jarry, 22, in recent years and now it's his time to shine with Murray injured. He has earned at least one point in six of seven games this season.
Video: BUF@PIT: Jarry denies Kane on wraparound chance
2. Oscar Dansk, Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 1.78 GAA, .946 save percentage)
My Grade: A
Every depth goalie has had a certain level of success at other levels. I believe coach Gerard Gallant's system protects goalies, but Dansk, 23, has shown he is capable of filling in at least short term.
Video: VGK@NYI: Dansk scrambles to turn away Tavares
3. Charlie Lindgren, Montreal Canadiens (3-4-1, 2.43 GAA, .924 save percentage)
My Grade: A-
Under very difficult circumstances in an intense market, Lindgren, 23, helped a struggling team stay above water during Price's recovery. This will turn out to be precious experience for him in the early stages of his career. For the time being, Montreal has chosen to return Lindgren to the AHL and have Antti Niemi back up Price.
Video: MTL@DAL: Lindgren robs Janmark with glove save
4. Reto Berra, Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0, 2.27 GAA, .932 save percentage)
My Grade: B
Although he's 30, Berra has NHL experience -- he has played 75 NHL games -- and that could be valuable if No. 1 goalie John Gibson goes down for an extended period.
Video: ANA@SJS: Berra extends pad for great save on Hertl
5. David Rittich, Calgary Flames (1-1-0, 3.04 GAA, .875 save percentage)
My Grade: B-
Rittich, 25, played a simple, quiet game in his first NHL start, a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 25. He made 24 saves and was named second star. Rittich had a little more trouble as the backup when he came on in relief of Smith against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, allowing two goals on six shots in the third period in a 7-5 loss.
Video: EDM@CGY: Rittich stones McDavid on a partial break