Nov 15, 2011, 2:34 PM EDT
Tonight in Toronto, it’s the tale of two vastly different goaltending situations.
The Leafs will start rookie Ben Scrivens in goal. He’ll get the nod over third-year pro Jonas Gustavsson, who was originally tabbed to be the starting netminder after sophomore sensation James Reimer got hurt.
The two teams are at opposite ends of the goaltending spectrum stylistically…and statistically.
Toronto has the fourth-worst GAA (3.41). Both Scrivens and Gustavsson have save percentages below .900.
Phoenix has the NHL’s 10th-lowest GAA (2.47). Both goalies have solid save percentages — Smith: .931, LaBarbera: .900.
“[Nobody’s] been more important to the club so far this season than Smith,” writes CBC.ca. “Since allowing six goals in the season opener, the netminder’s goals-against average is 1.88.”
Smith’s ascension to a top-flight, No. 1 netminder is the latest in the ongoing debate of how NHL teams should approach the goaltending position. There’s no shortage of opinion on how to do it. Some say find a proven veteran and lock him up long-term. Others suggest grooming a less-expensive (and less-proven) youngster. Some say spend big while others preach frugality. Some say declare a clear-cut No. 1, others opt for the platoon system.
Thing is, Smith’s situation in Phoenix doesn’t really fit into any of those. When the Coyotes signed him to a two-year, $4-million deal back in July he was a run-of-the-mill 29-year-old goalie with marginal starting experience. (At $2 million per, he was being paid exactly like that — either a cheap starter, or a pricey backup.)
The thought was at best he’s a decent 1b to someone else’s 1a; at worst he’s one of the league’s better backups. Many assumed he’d be Phoenix’s starter, but they also assumed Phoenix would have the worst goaltending duo in the league.
Now granted, some of Smith’s success this year is due to Phoenix’s defensive style of play. But looking around the NHL right now — yes, Toronto included — there are more than a few clubs that could probably use Smith at $2 million per:
— The team he left, Tampa Bay, had to yank Dwayne Roloson again last night.
— Columbus’s goaltending woes are well documented.
— New Jersey is still on the lookout for 39-year-old Martin Brodeur‘s heir apparent. (And if Smith wasn’t the heir apparent, he could’ve been a useful stopgap considering Brodeur’s backup, Johan Hedberg, is 38.)
It’s still early in the year and hey, Smith’s never played more than 42 games in a single season — this could still go pear-shaped. But for now, Phoenix has added yet another viable option as to how NHL teams should approach the goaltending position.
I’m just not sure how to describe it.
- The Ducks got Kesler for a game like Saturday’s 8
- Your Lightning-Rangers Game 7 officials are… 1
- Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win 39
- DeBoer predicts ‘big bounce-back’ in San Jose 12
- Sabres name Bylsma head coach 45
- Lundqvist on Game 7: ‘You’re definitely nervous, but it comes down to teamwork’ 16
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue 56
- Stanley Cup Final to begin June 3 8
- Caps’ Backstrom undergoes arthroscopic hip surgery 6
- Report: Sens’ Murray to retire after next season 1
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ (75)
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks (66)
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue (56)
- On Kreider, and trying ‘to turn the other cheek’ (54)
- Fetisov wants to restrict young Russians from playing in the NHL (53)