Top unknown goaltenders

Top unknown goaltenders

Top unknown goaltenders
By ARI BAUM-COHEN

With the season nearly three quarters complete, a number of lesser-known netminders are contributing to their teams’ success.

Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks)

Rise to power

With Jean-Sebastien Giguere dealing with the death of his father and battling inconsistency, Jonas Hiller was given a chance to carry the workload for Anaheim.

Performance

In 29 games, Hiller is fourth in the NHL in GAA (2.20) and sixth in save percentage (9.24). He has filled in admirably during Giguere’s absence from the team and subsequent struggles. Though Hiller has not stolen many games for Anaheim, he has kept it competitive and in the playoff race.

Verdict

Hiller likely has a bright future in the NHL. He also put up excellent numbers as a rookie last year. For now, Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle is committed to giving Giguere an opportunity to get his game back. But if Giguere continues to struggle, Hiller could see more starts down the stretch.

Scott Clemmensen (New Jersey Devils)

Rise to power

After starting the season as New Jersey’s third-string goaltender, an injury to Martin Brodeur and poor play by Kevin Weekes opened the door for Scott Clemmensen to earn regular playing time.

Performance

Clemmensen and the New Jersey Devils have exceeded expectations. The perennial backup is posting Brodeur-like numbers with a 25-11-1 record, a GAA of 2.31 and a save percentage of .920.  New Jersey is in second place in the Eastern Conference with 77 points.

Verdict

With the return of Martin Brodeur expected sometime in the next two weeks, Clemmensen will not be playing in many more games this season. Look for the Devils to move the unrestricted free agent sometime near the trade deadline.

Ty Conklin (Detroit Red Wings)

Rise to power

Expecting to play at most 30 games this season, Ty Conklin’s strong play has created a situation where no clear No. 1 goaltender exists in Detroit.

Performance

Conklin has played well between the pipes, posting a 19-7-2 record, a 2.34 GAA, .922 save percentage and six shutouts. In contrast, projected starter Chris Osgood is 18-5-7 with a 3.29 GAA, .879 save percentage and no shutouts.

Verdict

Both GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock have expressed their displeasure with Chris Osgood’s play. Osgood will be given additional chances to redeem himself but Conklin has been so much better than Osgood that if the playoffs started tomorrow, odds are Conklin would be getting the nod.

Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)

Rise to power

Pekka Rinne started the season entrenched as the Predators’ backup but after starting the season 6-0-0 he was given an opportunity to compete for No. 1 goaltender status.  His stellar play won him the number one job from Dan Ellis – for now.

Performance

Rinne has played well for the Predators, posting a 16-9-0 record, 2.33 GAA, .919 save percentage and four shutouts. Rinne is yet to lose in a shootout this year and allowed his first shootout goal in 10 attempts this past Saturday. Much of Nashville’s limited success this year has come as a result of Rinne’s strong play.

Verdict

Coach Barry Trotz has stated that the No. 1 goaltender job is Rinne’s to lose. Rinne is having an excellent rookie season and if he continues his strong play he will be in Nashville’s net for years to come.

Steve Mason (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Rise to power

Steve Mason was supposed to be Columbus’ goaltender of the future. The 2006 third-round pick was called up to the Blue Jackets following an injury to Pascal Leclaire. He quickly established himself as Columbus’ top goalie.

Performance

Mason’s stats are incredible. The rookie leads the NHL in GAA (2.06) and shutouts (7). He is 21-12-2 and has a .925 save percentage. Numbers aside, Steve Mason is the main reason Columbus is in position to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. He will almost certainly win rookie of the year.

Verdict

After back-to-back wins over the weekend, including one over the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, it is safe to say Mason has recovered from a bout of mono. It may be early, but Steve Mason is the NHL’s next great goaltender.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Mason (St. Louis), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

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