Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Some Surprising Goalies

Goaltending is a position that can have a tremendous effect on a team.  A team with a top goalie can significantly exceed expectations.  Likewise, a team with poor goaltending will fail to live up to expectation.  Short term predictions based on goaltending are hard because it is a very streaky position.  It is not uncommon for a goalie who has not had much recent success to suddenly have a very hot streak and become nearly unbeatable and it is not uncommon for a top goalie to have a cold streak.

Two goalies who were largely overlooked in the free agent market who are off to good starts this year are Antero Niittymaki of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Andrew Raycroft of the Vancouver Canucks.

Niittymaki has a 1.95 GAA and a .940 saves percentage in Tampa.  His success has been needed by the Lightning as last year’s number one goalie Mike Smith is off to a poor start.  Niittymaki has only seven decisions so far this year, but they include four of Tampa’s six wins.  He has had past success.  His strong goaltending is a large part of the reason Finland won the silver medal in the 2006 Olympics, but he has struggled through injuries in the last few years and there was little interest in him in the free agent market.

With Roberto Luongo hurt, Andrew Raycroft has been forced into the Vancouver Canucks number one goalie position.  Raycroft has a 1.60 GAA and a .936 saves percentage.  He has won four of the five games in which he has a decision.  This has been a big boost to the Canucks who could have struggled with their star Luongo on the sidelines.  Raycroft too has had success in the past.  He won the 2004 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, but has largely struggled since then behind weak defences in Toronto and Colorado.  There was little interest in him in the free agent market either.

These two goaltenders have in limited starts played as well as Craig Anderson of Colorado and Ryan Miller of Buffalo (who have been the top goalies in the league so far this year).  This shows how volatile good goaltending can be.  Unexpected players can provide league leading goaltending for a short time.  The true test comes in maintaining that level of play for several months over the course of a season.  It is unclear if any of Anderson, Miller, Nittymaki and Raycroft can do that.  If any of them does, they will have exceeded our expectations for them that we had in the pre-season.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com