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:

Boston Bruins
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%)

Minnesota Wild
Backup: Josh Harding (8-4-2, 2.15 GAA, .932 SV%)
Starter: Niklas Backstrom (12-11-4, 2.39 GAA, .923 SV%)

Vancouver Canucks
Backup: Cory Schneider (10-5-0, 2.30 GAA, .927 SV%)
Starter:Roberto Luongo (17-9-3, 2.37 GAA, .917 SV%)

Colorado Avalanche
Backup: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (9-6-0, 2.08 GAA, .924 SV%)
Starter: Semyon Varlamov (14-14-1, 2.90 GAA, .902 SV%)

Buffalo Sabres
Backup: Jhonas Enroth (8-7-3, 2.46 GAA, .923 SV%)
Starter: Ryan Miller (10-12-2, 3.01 GAA, .902 SV%)

Philadelphia Flyers
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%)

Chicago Blackhawks
Backup: Ray Emery (9-3-2, 2.72 GAA, .906 SV%)
Starter: Corey Crawford (16-10-3, 2.83 GAA, .903 SV%)

Comments (7)

  1. The most ridiculous splits here have to be Colorado and Columbus where the GAA for the backup netminder is almost an entire goal lower than the starter. That’s absurd. How can the coaches still consciously start a guy who’s likely to give up an extra goal?

    • 2011-21012 salaries
      Steve Mason: $2,900,000
      Curtis Sanford:$600,000

      Semyon Varlarmov: $2,833,333
      JS Giguere: $1,250,000

      When front office pays that much more in a year, they want to use the players, or it’s wasted money. Organizations don’t want to admit that they made 3-million-dollar mistakes

  2. What about Gustavsson (13 wins, 2.91, 910%) vs. Reimer (7 wins, 3.01, 900%)? The gap is bigger if you consider the past month or so.

    • I considered including Gustavsson and Reimer, but the argument could be made right now that Gustavsson actually is the starter in Toronto right now. Because of Reimer’s injury, he’s actually started more games. I figured, rather than opening that can of worms, I’d just leave them off the list.

      • Furthermore, Reimer is only making $450,000 more than the Monster. It’s hard to call one or the other the starter. It’s almost like the Ryan Miller/Marty Biron situation in Buffalo where either could have been viewed as the starter. Oh yeah, and Reimer was hurt. with Ebola-like symptons.

  3. The backups don’t usually play the top teams, the number 1 does. So why is it so surprising that backups have as good or better stats.

  4. becuz judging goaltenders based on save pct. is a voodoo science and cannot be a deciding factor. i can stop 4 of 5 shots and have a poor save percentage. the goalie on the other end stops 28 out of 30 and has a better percentage but loses the game. who would you rather be? is it the winning goalie’s fault that his defence blocked 20 shots so he wasn’t able to stop them? i have never understood why non-goalies place high value on percentages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *