Assessing the Ottawa Senators Goaltending Situation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - APRIL 16: Anton Forsberg #31 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on April 16, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ONTARIO - APRIL 16: Anton Forsberg #31 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on April 16, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /
Anton Forsberg #31 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Anton Forsberg #31 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

The Senators’ goaltending is as strong as we’ve seen over the last five seasons

In the NHL, having strong or even above-average goaltending can take a team a long way, but if your play between the pipes falters it’s increasingly difficult to win games. While goaltending wasn’t the only factor causing the Senators problems since their run to the conference finals in 2016-17, it has been far from a strong suit.

Over the last 5 seasons, the Senators have gotten well below-average goaltending as it compares to the rest of the NHL:

Senators team Save Percentage 2017-2022, (League-wide ranking)

  • 2021-22: 0.904 SV% (16th)
  • 2020-21: 0.895 SV% (28th)
  • 2019-20: 0.900 SV% (25th)
  • 2018-19: 0.897 SV% (26th)
  • 2017-18: 0.895 SV% (30th)

Last season the Senators finally realized an upwards trend in regards to the goaltending position, Anton Forsberg’s brilliance helped bump the team to the middle of the pack, 16th. Outside of Forsberg, the Senators were exposed in net, Matt Murray and Filip Gustavsson were wildly inconsistent and unreliable, which led to their departure from the nation’s capital. Acquiring Cam Talbot for Filip Gustavsson was the cherry on top for Senators GM Pierre Dorion, stabilizing the position with another goaltender that can thrive in a starting role.


Starter: Anton Forsberg

2021-22 Season Stats: 46 GP, 22W-17L-4OTL, 0.917 SV%, 2.82 GAA, 1 SO

Despite the subtle rumblings that Cam Talbot will take over the starting reigns this season, I would expect Senators head coach D.J. Smith to stick with the younger and frankly better option. Anytime Forsberg was between the pipes last season it seemed as though the Senators had a chance to win, and amazingly he finished with a record above 0.500 while the other three goaltenders to start a game last season (Murray, Gustavsson, Søgaard) posted a record of 11W-25L-3OTL.

Forsberg’s game is heavily supported by analytics too, his impressive 14.48 GSAA last season led all Senators goaltenders by a large margin and ranked 11th in the league.

The 29-year-old netminder was especially impressive shorthanded, boasting an eye-popping 0.914 SV% which ranked 4th among all qualified goaltenders. Forsberg never seems out of the fight, always fighting for each and every save, much like the clip below:

With Forsberg’s seemingly untapped potential and success on high-danger shots within the Senators’ system, I think it would be an oversight to not view him as the starter heading into this season.

Cam Talbot #33 (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Cam Talbot #33 (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

Backup: Cam Talbot

2021-22 Season Stats: 49 GP, 32-12-4, 0.911 SV%, 2.76 GAA, 3 SO

Talbot was the starter in Minnesota for the majority of the 21-22 season, winning 32 games and leading the Wild comfortably into the playoffs. In a semi-surprising move at the trade deadline, the Wild traded for Marc-Andre Fleury who would take over the starter’s role despite subpar performances. The Wild would ride Fleury in the postseason, bowing out to the St. Louis Blues in 6 games, spelling the end of Talbot’s time in Minnesota.

Acquired in a tidy move by Pierre Dorion on July 12th in a one-for-one swap for Filip Gustavsson, the well-experienced 35-year-old puck stopper will provide the Senators with much-needed stability behind second-year starter Anton Forsberg. Talbot also posted relatively strong underlying metrics last season, posting 6.37 GSAA, ranking 21st among qualified goaltenders.

There’s no doubt Talbot had a solid season in his final year in Minnesota, but with his increased age and slight downward trajectory, starting in the range of 25-35 games may be in the best interest of the player and team.

Mads Sogaard #33 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Mads Sogaard #33 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /


Starter: Mads Søgaard

2021-22 Season Stats (AHL): 35 GP, 19W-14L-1OTL, 0.908 SV%, 2.86 GAA

                                            (NHL): 2 GP, 1W-1L-0OTL, 0.889 SV%, 3.07 GAA

Søgaard enters this upcoming season as the unquestioned starter for the B-Sens, after a tremendous year and the departure of fellow top goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson, the path is pretty clear for the Danish netminder. At just 21 years old, Søgaard’s now the team’s #3 goaltender and has already semi-asserted himself at the NHL level, registering his first win in his first start on April 1st of last season.

The Senators have undoubtedly treated Søgaard as their goaltender “of the future”, and trading away his closest competition in Filip Gustavsson further solidifies the team’s feelings towards their tantalizing prospect. And believe me, I’m on the Søgaard hype train as well, a 6-foot-7, athletic goaltender with a history of solid production at various levels seems like a good bet to take.

Don’t expect Søgaard to get many, if any games at the NHL level next season barring an injury to either Anton Forsberg or Cam Talbot, however, I assume he becomes the team’s first call-up if the situation presents itself.

Backup: Kevin Mandolese

2021-22 Season Stats (AHL): 17 GP, 9W-5L-0TL, 0.901 SV%, 3.12 GAA

                                            (ECHL): 6 GP, 1W-4L-1OTL, 0.916 SV%, 2.68 GAA

Despite limited appearances (23 GP), 2021-22 seemed like a mini-renaissance for Kevin Mandolese. A 2018 6th Round Pick (157th Overall), Mandolese has been with the organization for a while, and he’s now been able to establish himself in both the junior and pro ranks.

Mandolese was sent to Atlanta of the ECHL early on in the season and despite the difficult conditions that the league entails, he was able to thrive despite only winning 1 game. Still only 22 years old, and having a large, projectable frame at 6-foot-4 he’s worth holding on to.

Mandolese only has to beat out recently signed veteran goaltender Antoine Bibeau, which he should be given every opportunity to come out on top of.

AHL Backup/ECHL Starter: Antoine Bibeau

2021-22 Season Stats (AHL): 10 GP, 4W-1L-2OTL, 0.905 SV%, 2.48 GAA

                                            (ECHL): 14 GP, 7W-4L-2OTL, 0.923 SV%, 2.79 GAA

Bibeau was inked to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 in the AHL. With injuries and movement extremely common at the AHL level, adding some insurance at the goaltender position is never a bad idea, Bibeau likely starts the season with Allen of the ECHL.

If called upon in Belleville, Bibeau should be able to provide stable goaltending. In 202 career games in the AHL, Bibeau has a respectable 0.908 SV% and 2.72 GAA and should be a player the organization can slot in at various levels without the risk of harming development.

Leevi Merilainen #1 of Finland (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images)
Leevi Merilainen #1 of Finland (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images) /


Prospect: Leevi Meriläinen

2021-22 Season Stats (OHL): 53 GP, 31W-16L-5OTL, 0.891 SV%, 3.29 GAA, 2 SO

Meriläinen made the move to North America for the 2021-22 season, suiting up in 53 games for the Kingston Frontenacs with varying results, winning 31 games but posting a low 0.891 SV% and looking a bit overwhelmed at times. Meriläinen didn’t do much to alleviate concern with his performance at this summer’s World Juniors, where he had an uneven performance, and eventually lost the starting job in the medal round.

However, the appeal is still there for Meriläinen, standing at 6-foot-3 with plus athleticism makes him still the 2nd best goaltender in the Senators’ prospect pipeline. The 20-year-old netminder will make his way back to Finland for the upcoming season to battle for a starting job with Kärpät of the Liiga, a great opportunity in one of the better men’s leagues on the planet.

Prospect: Kevin Reilder

2021-22 Season Stats (J18 Region): 11 GP, 6W-5L-0OTL, 0.930 SV%, 1.83 GAA, 4 SO

(J18 Nationell): 11 GP, 7W-4L-0OTL, 0.910 SV%, 3.13 GAA

        (J20 Nationell): 3 GP, 1W-1L-0OTL, 0.847 SV%, 4.33 GAA

Reilder, a Senators 5th Round draft pick (151st Overall) in July’s draft is still a bit of an unknown to even the most die-hard Sens fans, he played most of last season at the Under-18 level in Sweden which isn’t usually a hotbed for draft-eligible prospects. It’s easy to see why the Senators scouting staff were so intrigued with Reilder, his 6-foot-6 frame takes up a ton of the net and with his September 2nd birthday he was also one of the youngest players in the 2022 NHL Draft.

It looks like Reidler will be starting the season with AIK of the J20 Nationell (Sweden’s top Jr League), with the potential of seeing games in Sweden’s second-tier pro league HockeyAllsvenskan.

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