The Atlantic Division is today’s stop as I examine the state of goaltending around the NHL. Some of the league’s top masked men reside in this Division and in some cases good goalies go two deep. Without further delay, let’s take a peek at the tandems.
New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg)
The Devils will head into the new season with one of the oldest duos in league history manning the pipes. Martin Brodeur is 40, while Johan Hedberg is a youthful 39. Both signed two year extensions that will keep them around for a little while longer still. Brodeur has learned to share the Devils crease in the past couple of years, staying below 60 games, which was previously unheard of for a healthy Marty. It helps that Hedberg had a great season as well, winning 17 of his 26 decisions. Just when you thought that Brodeur was near the end of the line and might be losing it a bit, he takes his club to a surprising Stanley Cup final, so maybe there is still some gas in the tank after all.
New York Islanders (Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro)
On paper this looks like a decent tandem, but chronic injuries have limited number one DiPietro to just 47 games over his last four seasons. Nabokov was a reluctant Islander and it showed at times, and he failed to win 20 games despite taking over the top job early on. FYI, the third goalie in the Isles system is Kevin Poulin who is no doubt on GM Garth Snow’s speed dial for the inevitable call that DiPietro is hurt yet again.
New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Biron)
It is kind of rare to find a quality backup with the pedigree of Martin Biron who accepts his role and does it so effectively. He doesn’t seem to rock the boat and is the consummate team guy. He just might be the best backup in the game for that reason, and also winning 12 of 21 games doesn’t hurt either. By the way, starter Lundqvist only won the Vezina as the league’s top goalie last season. Not a shabby pair.
Philadelphia Flyers (Ilya Bryzgalov, Michael Leighton )
The best way to describe Bryzgalov first season as a Flyer is adventurous. He was the highlight of HBO’s 24/7 leadup to the Winter Classic off the ice, while on it his performance was respectable. An insane first round playoff series against the Pens showed he can be taken off his game, which seems to be status quo for one of the quirkiest players to come around in some time. Leighton returns as the backup after Sergei Bobrovsky was sent to Columbus.
Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury, Tomas Vokoun)
Like Bryzgalov across the state, Fleury showed that the space between a goalies ears is more important than the space between his pads. He was second in the league in wins but the Flyers got to him in the playoffs, so there is still some work to do. Vokoun was brought in to provide some support and give Fleury a little more rest than Brent Johnson could provide.
So there is the field, but how do they stack up against each other? Here are my rankings:
5. New York Islanders – DiPietro needs to stay healthy, which doesn’t seem likely. Even a healthy DiPietro might not move them up in this ranking.
4. New Jersey Devils – Over the long haul, can 79 combined years of age hold up?
3. Philadelphia Flyers – Bryzgalov needs to show he can lead a good team on a playoff run.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – Vokoun’s presence as backup gives the Pens a leg up on the Flyers.
1. New York Rangers – Lunqvit is the best goalie and the role Biron fits so well as his backup makes this almost the perfect situation.
Tomorrow I wrap up with the final division, our own Northeast Division. Where will the Sens stack up against their divisional rivals? Check back tomorrow to find out.