by PuckStopsHere on 11/30/08 at 10:08 AM ET
The San Jose Sharks have been the best team in the NHL so far this year. Their 20-4 record (with one regulation tie point) gives them 41 points and first place in the NHL. However, all is not perfect in San Jose. Their number one goalie Evgeni Nabokov has yet to play particularly well. He is sporting a .896 saves percentage, which has a lot to be desired. His other numbers do not look so bad. He has a 2.57 GAA and a 13-2 record. This is a testament to how well the Sharks have played in front of him. Nevertheless, his goaltending will become an issue if he continues to play at that level. It is impossible to have prolonged success in the NHL without better goaltending.
The solution is obvious. When Nabokov was injured, backup goaltender Brian Boucher played extremely well. Boucher has a .928 saves percentage and a 1.89 GAA. Since Boucher was the temporary number one goalie, his better numbers are not a function of playing against weaker competition.
San Jose would probably benefit by using a two goalie system right now. Boucher is the hot hand and has not played in a little over a week since Nabokov returned from injury. His last game was November 22nd vs. Washington.
Nabokov has the better track record and is more likely to be a longterm number one goalie, but Boucher has a record as a streaky goalie. He had five straight shutouts in 2004 with the Phoenix Coyotes. It would be in San Jose’s best interests to give Boucher the chance to play while he is playing well. The rest that Nabokov has now may be valuable when the playoffs role around. Nabokov played an incredible 77 games last season but was unable to last through the playoffs. Much more rested goalies in Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury battled it out in the Stanley Cup finals as Nabokov and the sharks were eliminated in the second round.
San Jose has a very good team this year. They have put up a first place record despite mediocre goaltending from their starter Evgeni Nabokov. When Brian Boucher is playing well, it would make more sense to use a two goalie system in San Jose than to go back to Nabokov exclusively. If Nabokov continues his lackluster play, I expect San Jose will not continue their winning ways. They can be overtaken by other top teams.
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