Having one star goalie is a tough task in today’s NHL. There are only a handful of “go to” guys that can carry a load of 65-70 games. The most successful teams are the ones that have a good starter who is backed up by a netminder of competence who can step in when injury or struggles occur. Here are my top 10 tandems heading into the 2011-12 season:
10. Martin Brodeur & Johan Hedberg – Marty isn’t the same goalie he was 10 years ago, but he is still among the stars of the game. He might not win 40 games this year, but the man who turns 40 next May should still get over 30 with a resurgent New Jersey squad that can’t be as bad as it started out last year. Hedberg is a capable veteran backup who can give the veteran a rest when needed.
9. Henrik Lundqvist & Martin Biron – Lundqvist is a top 5 goaltender in the league, and he is backed up by a veteran former #1 goalie in Biron. Biron is a great team guy who will not complain if Lundqvist gets a vast majority of the starts. He will bide his time and fill in when called upon.
8. Antii Niemi & Antero Niittymaki – The Finnish duo were in an internal battle for the starting position, with Niemi having the upper hand at the end of the season. Niemi will be the clear #1 heading into the 2011-12 season, but he will be pushed by Niittymaki with whom the Sharks do not lose much in the net.
7. Pekka Rinne & Anders Lindback – Rinne emerged as a top flight goalie last season, and at 28 is entering his prime. Lindback is a huge 23 year old up and comer from the goaltending factory that is the Nashville Predators. With Rinne entrenched as the number one, it is only a matter of time before Lindback’s eyes wander to a team that needs help in net, but for now they are an elite combination.
6. Ilya Bryzgalov & Sergei Bobrovsky – Giving Bryzgalov the benefit of the doubt here, that he can do the same with a top level team that he did with a lower tier team – make a difference. The Flyers are betting on it, and having Bobrovsky as the backup will take some of the pressure off Ilya. Bobrovsky showed last season that he might not be #1 material yet, so having a fellow Russian to learn from will help his development.
5. Carey Price & Peter Budaj – Price is a top 5 goalie in the league, and will likely get 65 starts at least. Budaj struggled as the #1 in Colorado, but has a track record of being very good in a backup role. He will support Price as he continues his ascent into NHL stardom in one of the leagues toughest markets.
4. Ryan Miller & Jhonas Enroth – Miller is an elite goaltender, and Enroth is capable of being a starter in the NHL. Enroth almost balked at coming back to be the understudy, but eventually re-signed to give the Sabres an excellent tandem. With his slight body type, Miller would benefit from playing fewer games so he can be fresher for the playoffs. This would help Buffalo go deeper in the post-season and Enroth would be a key to helping them get there.
3. Jonathan Quick & Jonathan Bernier – The two Johns will be in a battle for the starting spot in LA, which can only push both to greater heights. Quick has been among the league leaders in wins over the past couple of seasons, but Bernier has served notice that he has paid his dues and wants his shot at #1. Quick’s lack of playoff consistency might give reason for to Kings management to look to the younger Bernier when the chips are down.
2. Roberto Luongo & Corey Schneider – This could eventually turn into another battle for the top spot. Luongo is a Vezina finalist and elite goaltender, but Schneider is rapidly ascending and will be knocking on the door. If they could find a suitable deal for Luongo, Canucks management might be inclined to make room for the younger, cheaper Schneider. Until that happens the Jennings Trophy winning duo will continue to be a top end pair in the net.
1. Tim Thomas & Tukka Rask – Its hard to argue with the hardware that includes the Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy. Thomas enjoyed a resurrection last year after an off season the prior year. Rask showed during Thomas’ struggles that he is capable of being a #1 and carrying the load also. The 37-year old Thomas was able to limit his playing time in the regular season to 57 games due to Rask’s ability, which kept him fresh for the playoff grind.
So three of the Senators’ Northeast Division Rivals are among the top 5 in terms of goaltending tandems. This will make it a tough climb if the Senators hope to make some noise this season, and Craig Anderson will have to be stellar to match opposing goalies save for save.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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