by Patrick Hoffman on 12/19/11 at 11:00 AM ET
It is obvious that in the National Hockey League, the goaltending position is one of the most crucial ones to any organization. Goaltenders can be the difference in both winning and losing hockey games and can also determine how far your team goes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This season, it appears that younger goaltenders are ready to take the torch and show just how good they are and that they can play in the NHL. This is especially the case in the Western Conference.
In the Western Conference this season, young goaltenders have been thrust into action and have not disappointed. I am talking about goaltenders such as Cory Schneider (Vancouver Canucks), Matt Hackett (Minnesota Wild), Josh Harding (Minnesota Wild), and Richard Bachman (Dallas Stars).
When Roberto Luongo was struggling and went down with an injury earlier in the season, the Vancouver Canucks gave Schneider a chance to show just how good he can be when given a chance to start. In 15 games this season, the 25-year-old netminder is 7-5 with a 2.17 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and 2 shutouts. Whether it is with the Canucks or another NHL team, Schneider will be a full-time starter in this league in what should be the near future.
In Minnesota, the Wild have a three-headed goaltending monster in Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and now, Matt Hackett. If you recognize the last netminder mentioned, it is because he is the nephew of former NHL netminder Jeff Hackett. In two games this season, Hackett, 21, is 2-0 with a 1.01 goals against average and a .974 save percentage.
Harding is also having himself quite a season for the Wild. The 27-year-old goaltender is 7-2-1 with a 2.14 goals against average, a .932 save percenatge and 1 shutout.
Bachman has also been a nice surprise in the Western Conference for the Dallas Stars. With starter Kari Lehtonen injured and back-up Andrew Raycroft struggling to find consistency, Bachman has come in and has gone 3-1 with a 2.08 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and 1 shutout.
Other honorable mentions include Brian Elliott (St. Louis Blues), Jonas Enroth (Buffalo Sabres), Al Montoya (New York Islanders), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens), and Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins).
With much of the season left to play, let’s see what other young goaltenders will come up and perform well for their respective clubs.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.