After breaking down the depth on the blue line throughout the Western Conference, and examining the wild summer of forward movement throughout the league, it’s now time that we look at the men between the pipes in West.
While the movement here wasn’t as crazy as it was in front of these guys, wins and losses are ultimately hung on these gentlemen. Here’s how we rank the netminders heading into the new season.
1. Los Angeles Kings
Starter: Jonathan Quick – 33-22-3, 2.24, .918
Backup: Jonathan Bernier
Because of their depth, Bernier was at the top of many rumor lists this summer. At the end of the day, though, the Kings were able to land Mike Richards without mortgaging arguably the best tandem in the NHL. Quick returns as the starter and, with a cap number of $1.8M, is one of the better bargains in the league.
2. Vancouver Canucks
Starter: Roberto Luongo – 38-15-7, 2.11, .928
Backup: Corey Schneider
Despite the disappointing postseason finish, Luongo finally got past the Western Conference. As was the situation with Los Angeles, the Canucks had a lot of buzz surrounding their backup. But, unlike Bernier, Schneider has only one year left on his deal and will likely continue to hear his name in trade rumors. Also unlike LA, the Canucks have made a substantial financial commitment to their starter (11 more years with a $5.33M cap number).
3. Nashville Predators
Starter: Pekka Rinne – 33-22-9, 2.10, .930
Backup: Anders Lindback
This is an important year in Nashville, where Rinne has only one more season under contract. Lindback was impressive when called upon last year, but it’s Rinne that will see the bulk of the action this year. With Shea Weber and Ryan Suter also needing new deals next summer, it’s probable that someone from that great core won’t be back after the 2011-12 season.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Starter: Corey Crawford – 33-18-6, 2.30, .917
Backup: Alexander Salak/Ray Emery
After allowing Antti Niemi to walk away last summer, the Hawks made a strong financial commitment to Crawford after his superb rookie season. Salak was acquired with Michael Frolik from Florida during the season, and was believed to have the inside track on the backup spot until Chicago extended an invitation to veteran Emery to join training camp. While he isn’t under contract (yet), Emery was good enough in limited action last year to give Salak a battle for the second roster spot this fall.
5. San Jose Sharks
Starter: Antti Niemi – 35-18-6, 2.38, .920
Backup: Antero Niittymaki
If Niemi had something to prove last year, he certainly silenced any critics that remained after leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. In his first full season as a starter, Niemi posted strong numbers and earned a four-year deal from the Sharks. Niittymaki is still under contract, and will return as a well-paid backup.
6. Detroit Red Wings
Starter: Jimmy Howard – 37-17-5, 2.79, .908
Backup: Ty Conklin
The more things change, the more they stay the same in Detroit. Chris Osgood retired, but they brought back a familiar face in Conklin to backup Howard. The Wings will need more consistent play from Howard, especially in the postseason, if they’re going to get out of a crowded Western Conference.
7. St. Louis Blues
Starter: Jaroslav Halak – 27-21-11, 2.48, .910
Backup: Brian Elliott
Halak was brought in to be a rock in net, and had some moments last year that showed that promise; going 6-1-1 with a 1.72 GAA, two shutouts and a .932 save percentage in October was worth the price. But as the season went on, Halak’s numbers suffered. He must be the man for the Blues if they’re going to get into the postseason this year.
8. Anaheim Ducks
Starter: Jonas Hiller – 26-16-3, 2.56, .924
Backup: Dan Ellis, Jeff Deslauriers
The big question in Anaheim is whether or not Hiller will be on the ice. If he isn’t, the Ducks have serious issues relying on Ellis or Deslauriers, and might have to jump into the market for a new netminder. But Hiller has shown that he’s a top-tier goalie, and can win games for the Ducks.
9. Colorado Avalanche
Starter: Semyon Varlamov – 11-9-5, 2.23, .924
Backup: Jean-Sebastian Giguere
Two new faces… again. The Avs have had awful luck with their goalies in the last few years, and may have grossly overpaid for Varlamov if he isn’t the starter this year; Colorado sent a first-round pick in the 2012 Draft and second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013 to Washington for the 23-year-old goalie.
10. Minnesota Wild: Backstom must be healthy for the Wild to play an 83rd game.
11. Dallas Stars: Lehtonen/Raycroft need more help than their roster will give them.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Hoping Mason wakes up this year.
13. Calgary Flames: Still believe in Kipprusoff…
14. Edmonton Oilers: Their starter was released from jail early this week.
15. Phoenix Coyotes: The goalie situation is about as settled as the Coyotes’ ownership.