The Central’s 8 Goalie Tandems.
First, let’s say welcome to the Central Division Arizona Coyotes. We love your new/old logo. We also love your starting goalie Carter Hutton. While we may love him, Greg Wyshynski and ESPN don’t.
Wyshynski released a story (subscription required) ranking all 31 Goalie Tandems. The Coyotes were ranked last. Ouch that has to hurt. Yes we know you will have a tough year, but last?
It also got me thinking… How did the Central Division do overall and do we here at the Fan Report agree? The Central Division is pretty stacked when it comes to Goaltending.
The Division has four Stanley cup rings and six trips to the Finals. Six of the division’s eight teams are in the top 16 overall.
Let’s look at how ESPN ranked the division in reverse order. Overall ranking in parentheses.
8th. Arizona Coyotes (32nd)
7th.Dallas Stars (25th)
6th. St. Louis Blues (15th)
5th. Minnesota Wild (14th)
4th. Nashville Predators (11th)
3rd. Chicago Blackhawks (8th)
2nd. Winnipeg Jets (5th)
1st. Colorado Avalanche (4th)
The Central is the only division with two teams in the top 5. Both the Central and the Pacific have three teams in the top ten. The Metropolitan Division has three teams in the top half, (Top 16), The Atlantic Division has four teams in the top half, and the Pacific Division has three.
I am thinking goals might just be a bit tough to come by in the Central.
This ranking was compiled via ESPN using a combination of experts and numbers.
“They were formulated through discussions with a variety of goalie experts — coaches, analytics gurus, former players — as well as through stats from sites like Evolving Hockey, Money Puck and Hockey Reference. We also spoke to Valiquette at length for his take on some of them tandems.”
“Keep in mind that these are a combination of past performance and projections for the 2021-22 NHL season, including preseason rankings from Clear Sight Analytics. Organizational depth is listed in parentheses where relevant.”
While I appreciate these ranking, I wonder if they missed something.
The Eye Test.
Yes, the one test that can-not be quantified. What do we see? What is happening out there that the numbers don’t tell us? Was that goal because of positioning? A break-down in the defense? A laser shot that has eyes. All of these things need to be taken in to account.
I felt we could rank these goalie tandems and look more at the eye test than the numbers. So here is how I see the tandems and, using both ESPN’s statements (In quotations marks) and my own thoughts, here are the rankings in reverse order.
The Central Division Goalie Tandem Rankings.
8. Winnipeg Jets (Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie)
Ok, I know Hellebuyck is an all-world goalie and has won a Vezina Trophy, but there is no way this team is finishing second in this division. An un-proven journeymen back-up and a started playing 82% of your genes is a recipe for disaster. Hellebuyck’s being swept in the second round by counterpart Carey Price from Montreal is the eye test I talk about.
While I think they will finish in seventh place and not eighth, it will be their offensive output and not their goalie stats that land them in that position.
7. Arizona Coyotes. (Carter Hutton, Josef Korenar)
This is not the worst tandem in the NHL. While yes, I admit the Coyotes are a soup sandwich; they are not the dumpster fire the Buffalo Sabres or the Ottawa Senators are. That being said, Hutton has shown he can lead a team when they play for him. In 2016-17 he was arguably the best goalie in the Blues organization.
The Sabres did not play for him in any of his three seasons in the net. His 1-10-1 record is an anomaly in my eyes and I think this underdog might just have some bite left. Look for them to either finish eighth or battle for a playoff spot. This team might just take an “Us against the world” attitude and if they do….
6. Dallas Stars (Anton Khudobin, Braden Holtby, (Jake Oettinger), (Ben Bishop))
The Stars are the anomaly this season. There are four trips to Stanley Cup Finals and one ring among this group. I did not count Bishop’s two trips in my opening. While Holtby looked off last season, this season could be a bounce-back for him. The experience he brings to this group, along with either the injured Bishop or Khudodin will win a lot of games for this team.
Bishop is the question mark. If he is healthy and ready to play, Dallas could jump a couple of spots on the list and will challenge for a wildcard spot.
5. Chicago Blackhawks. (Marc-Andre Fleury, Kevin Lankinen)
Ok this is the same situation as the Jets. A celebrated Veteran next to an un-proven sophomore with one season and a 3.01 GAA and .909 Save percentage backing him up. Chicago could be a team that rallies around Jonathan Toews, but might not take kindly to Fleury and how the trade went down and him thinking about not playing.
If the losses pile up quickly, this team could erupt and it will leave Fleury holding the bag. For a Goalie who considered retirement, that becomes an issue rather quickly.
4. Nashville Predators.(Juuse Saros, David Rittich)
Now, this was a hard decision for me. With “the Pekka Rinne Era is officially over in Nashville,” this team is not the same one that made the playoffs last season. While Saros had a breakout season as a rookie, his second season could be much worse.
So, why fourth? the Preds just could be that team that gets behind their netminder and in a division where goals could be harder to find than a virgin and a prom, their toughness could bring lots of wins. While the goalie is never completely at fault for all the goals he lets in, he gets a ton of credit for winning a 2-1 or 3-2 game. This could be Sarros.
3. Minnesota Wild (Cam Talbot, Kaapo Kahkonen)
Cam Talbot had a resurgence last season playing for the Wild. “His .636 quality starts percentage was the best of his career. There were numbers that indicated he was playing at a near-elite level, and numbers that seemed to indicate the Wild’s goaltending wasn’t playing as well as the defense in front of them.”
If he can continue this rebirth and Kahkonen continues his upward trajectory, this could be a duo as important as Batman and Robin.
The Wild will score goals. If the dynamic duo keep the pucks going into their net limited, this will be a team to be reckoned with.
2. Colorado Avalanche (Darcy Kuemper, Pavel Francouz)
This was also hard. They should be number one right? Yes, they would, but the Goalie that made them number one is in Seattle, Philipp Grubauer. To remove him from the equation and replace him with Kuemper and say they won’t lose a beat is a bit crazy in my mind.
Both Kuemper and Francourz can lead and have led this team, but while the Avalanche can score, they will be letting in a few more pucks than they did last season. This team can win the division with this tandem, however that does not make them the best.
1. St. Louis Blues (Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso)
Ok. this is going to surprise and piss a lot of people off at the same time. The second group will be those saying this is a Blues-heavy site, so of course, he would put them there. The Second group will say WTF very loudly. I have been hard on Binnington and his 0-9 performance in the last two play-offs.
When I started writing this, I had Binnington and Husso fourth. But as I went along, the Note’s netminders continued to climb. Binnington’s regular-season numbers are above average. In 127 games played, he has a 2.42 GAA and a .915 S%. Those numbers in and of themselves are just on the outside of the elite.
Husso last season had a bit of trouble with the first couple of shots and had his team playing from behind a lot. Take a defensive team and make them offensive in the first five minutes of a game and you got trouble. That is what Husso did. in his first preseason game, he cleaned that up, and after stopping all 10 shots, and his team scored on one of their five.
If these two show what they can do, they can be something special. Sorry ESPN they are not the sixth-best tandem in the Central.
Ok, I can not wait to hear your thoughts and comments, especially from the Jets and Avalanche fans. Just remember, Walt Wittman said, “Be Curious, Not Judgemental.”
So I asked the question and these are my answers. What are yours?
Till Next time Hockey fans,
I am Bleeding Blue wit ya.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing