The selections for the 2012 All-Star Game will be announced today, if they’re not already available by the time this goes up. Oddly enough, 5 of the top 10 goaltenders in save percentage are unlikely to receive any consideration. None of those 5, one of whom leads the league in save percentage right now, were among Puck Daddy’s selections, and for good reason.
5 of the top 10 goaltenders in save percentage are backups.
Tuukka Rask is currently first in the NHL in both save percentage and goals against average, followed closely by another backup, Brian Elliott. NHL.com actually considered Elliott for the All-Star Game, likely because he’s right on the edge between backup and “1B.”
Josh Harding, Cory Schneider, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere round out the 5 backups in the top 10, with Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth coming in at 11.
All five are outperforming their team’s starting goaltenders and they’re not alone. One possible reason is that backup goaltenders may be more likely to start against lesser opponents, but this might be balanced out by more frequently starting on the second night of back-to-back games.
This doesn’t mean that these backups would necessarily excel in a number one role, as they might not be able to handle the larger number of games and responsibility. One of the best backups last season was Semyon Varlamov, who posted a save percentage of .924 in 25 starts for the Capitals. This season with the Avalanche, his save percentage has plummeted to .902 and has been outperformed by veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere, making the high price Colorado paid to acquire him look suspect.
Still, a couple of these backups may have the possibility of stealing the number one job this season, such as Elliott with the Blues, if their higher level of performance continues. Elliott wasn’t even expected to necessarily make the team, after being arguably the worst single player in the league last season. He signed a one year, two-way contract with the Blues for $600,000 in order to provide some competition for prospect Ben Bishop. The much more highly-paid Jaroslav Halak was the de facto number one, but has been badly outplayed by Elliott.
Other backups are playing behind very good goaltenders who may have had some early season struggles or are only being outperformed statistically by a small amount. As much as Rask has been lights out in Boston and is clearly the goaltender of the future for the Bruins, he won’t be taking Tim Thomas’s job this season. The same goes for Harding in Minnesota and, as much as some Canucks fans may disagree, Schneider in Vancouver.
Here are 10 backup goaltenders who are statistically outperforming the starting goaltenders for their team:
Backup: Tuukka Rask (10-4-1, 1.59 GAA, .945 SV%)
Starter: Tim Thomas (17-7-0, 1.99 GAA, .938 SV%)
St. Louis Blues
Backup: Brian Elliott (15-5-0, 1.62 GAA, .940 SV%)
Starter: Jaroslav Halak (10-7-5, 2.19 GAA, .914 SV%)
Backup: Josh Harding (8-4-2, 2.15 GAA, .932 SV%)
Starter: Niklas Backstrom (12-11-4, 2.39 GAA, .923 SV%)
Backup: Cory Schneider (10-5-0, 2.30 GAA, .927 SV%)
Starter:Roberto Luongo (17-9-3, 2.37 GAA, .917 SV%)
Backup: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (9-6-0, 2.08 GAA, .924 SV%)
Starter: Semyon Varlamov (14-14-1, 2.90 GAA, .902 SV%)
Backup: Jhonas Enroth (8-7-3, 2.46 GAA, .923 SV%)
Starter: Ryan Miller (10-12-2, 3.01 GAA, .902 SV%)
Backup: Sergei Bobrovsky (9-3-1, 2.45 GAA, .919 SV%)
Starter: Ilya Bryzgalov (16-9-3, 3.07 GAA, .891 SV%)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Backup: Curtis Sanford (6-9-3, 2.57 GAA, .911 SV%)
Starter: Steve Mason (5-16-2, 3.46 GAA, .882 SV%)
New Jersey Devils
Backup: Johan Hedberg (12-7-1, 2.45 GAA, .909 SV%)
Starter: Martin Brodeur (12-10-1, 2.98 GAA, .891 SV%)
Backup: Ray Emery (9-3-2, 2.72 GAA, .906 SV%)
Starter: Corey Crawford (16-10-3, 2.83 GAA, .903 SV%)