Original Post via: Philadelphia Sports Nation
With the bulk of this offseason’s move behind us, we’ve got a pretty good look at what teams are going to look like when next season starts – whenever that may be.
In arguably the most competitive division in the NHL over the past few seasons, the Metropolitan is looking like it will be a dogfight again in 2021.
Though there are multiple factors to evaluate when predicting a team’s success, player talent is certainly the most important.
Let’s start off with a look at each team’s goaltending situation and how they stack up against the rest of the division.
For the Metro, there is no shortage of great goaltending as they easily have the best group of up-and-coming goaltenders with Carter Hart, Ilya Samsonov, Elvis Merzlikins, Tristan Jarry, and Igor Shesterkin.
8) Washington Capitals // Ilya Samsonov & Henrik Lundqvist
After 10 years with Braden Holtby in net, the Capitals are finally moving on from the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner, and rightfully so, after he posted a career-worst 2019-20 season.
Likely elevating to the starter spot will be 23-year-old, Ilya Samsonov. Appearing in 22 games last year, the 2015 first-round pick fared well in his rookie season, posting a .913 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average. The sample size is just too small to really get a grasp on whether he’s ready to back a likely contender in the Capitals. He may be a great goalie in the near future, but it’s still too early to tell.
In one of the most interesting moves of the offseason, the Capitals signed 38-year-old Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year deal. After 15 years on Broadway, Lundqvist has inevitably started to decline over the past three years, posting a goals-against-average of over 3 in the past two seasons.
The Capitals are banking on Samsonov to be ready for an increased workload and also for Lundqvist to prove he has anything left in the tank as he will turn 39 next season which will rank them last in the Metro as there are more question marks than certainties between the pipes.
7) New York Islanders // Semyon Varlamov & Corey Schneider
With Thomas Greiss heading to Detroit, the Islanders will turn to recent Devils buyout Cory Schneider to back up Semyon Varlamov.
They’re definitely taking a hit as Greiss has been fairly good over his five years on Long Island and was their best goaltender at times in this year’s playoffs (especially in the Flyers’ series).
Varlamov was definitely serviceable in his first year with the Islanders, registering a .914 SV% behind a stout defensive Islanders team.
As for Schneider, it’s been a major struggle over the past two seasons as he was limited to 39 combined games due to injury. Even when he was healthy, he still struggled behind a poor Devils team, posting a 3.29 goals-against average and .895 SV% during over the last two seasons.
The Islanders’ defense from last year proved strong enough to mask a lot of issues but if Cory Schneider can’t stay healthy, it may spell trouble. I’m just not sure if Varlamov is a guy that can carry them for that many games if Schenider does go down again.
6) Carolina Hurricanes // Petr Mrazek & James Reimer
Though they have been open to improving between the pipes, for now, it seems that Hurricanes will be running it back with Mrazek and Reimer.
While neither are stars, they were both pretty good last season for a strong Canes team.
After a poor stint in Philadelphia, Mrazek has turned his career around with Carolina as he backed them to an Eastern Conference Final appearance in 2019. He followed that up with a serviceable showing in 2019-20 – 40 games played, 2.69 GAA, .905 SV%.
As for Reimer, he’s bounced around the league as well, spending three seasons as Roberto Luongo’s backup in Florida before settling Carolina last year, getting into 25 games and starting three playoff games.
While neither are Carolina’s “goalie of the future”, both are competent NHL-level goalies and should be good enough to back a playoff-hopeful Hurricanes squad.
5) Pittsburgh Penguins // Tristan Jarry & Casey DeSmith
Much like the Capitals, the Penguins moved on from a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender as they moved Matt Murray to Ottawa after a disappointing season in 2019-20.
With Murray out of the picture, the door is open for Tristan Jarry to become the full-time starter of the future after inking a 3-year deal this month.
The former second-round pick had split time between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) over the past four years before overtaking a struggling Murray last season. Jarry appeared in a career-high 33 games while registering career-highs in SV % (.921) and GAA (2.43) which turned out to be good enough for the Penguins to trade away Murray and give Jarry the starting spot.
Behind him will likely be Casey DeSmith who lost out on the backup job to Jarry last summer. DeSmith, who spent the entire 2019-20 season in the AHL, does have 50 games of NHL experience under his belt. During his last stint in the NHL in 2018-19, he posted a .917 save percentage in 32 games as Murray’s backup.
The duo of Jarry and DeSmith isn’t a bad one, but Pittsburgh will be heavily relying on the two to be serviceable on a cap-strapped Penguins team.
4) New Jersey Devils // Mackenzie Blackwood & Corey Crawford
Though the Devils may not be very good next season, their goalies probably won’t be to blame for it.
Behind one of the bottom defensive teams in the league, the fact that Mackenzie Blackwood put up the numbers he did is pretty remarkable.
The Devils allowed the sixth-most shots on goal last season (32.7/game) but Blackwood kept them in most games with a .915 SV % over his 47 appearances, going 22-14-8.
Without Blackwood in net, the Devils went 6-15-4, allowing 91 goals in the process (4.14/ game). That’s downright awful.
To help with their woes without Blackwood, the Devils brought in a veteran goalie in Corey Crawford. Though he’s almost 36, Crawford should be a good fit in a backup role behind a rising star in Blackwood.
3) New York Rangers // Igor Shesterkin & Alexandar Georgiev
When you think of the Rangers’ young talent, Alexis Lafreniere, Kappo Kaako Adam Fox, and Tony DeAngelo, but the Rangers have some very promising talent at goalie as well.
At 23 and 24 years old, respectively, Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin make a very young, very talented duo for the Rangers.
In his third season with the team, Georgiev overtook the declining Henrik Lundqvist and started a career-high 32 games, his 3.04 GAA average isn’t great but he put up a respectable .910 save percentage and led the Rangers in wins with 17. He was very streaky but the highs (like his 55-save performance against Toronto) were incredible.
If Georgiev wasn’t enough to get Rangers fans excited, maybe the 12 games they saw of Igor Shesterkin will do it. Shesterkin was nothing short of remarkable Again, very small sample size but it appears he will be the first in line to be the heir to Lundqvist’s throne.
Things look pretty bright for the Rangers goaltending and both will get their chance with Lundqvist out of the picture.
2) Philadelphia Flyers // Carter Hart & Brian Elliott
While there are many exciting young goalies in the Metropolitan, you can make the argument that the Flyers have the best one.
In his first full season in Philadelphia, Carter Hart showed exactly why he’s been so hyped since the Flyers drafted him in 2016. The two-time WHL goalie of the year has already turned himself into one of the league’s best goaltenders at just 21 years old.
Many of the Metro’s young goalies looked great last year, but Carter Hart’s performance in the playoffs really set him apart from the rest as he was singlehandedly keeping the Flyers in games as the offense sputtered for much of the postseason. Starting 14 playoff games, Hart posted a .926 SV% and 2.23 GAA and pitched two shutouts as he helped the Flyers win their first playoff round in eight years and take the Islanders to a Game 7 despite their anemic offense.
Behind him, the Flyers brought back 35-year-old Brian Elliott who has been a serviceable goaltender over the past three years. His stats won’t jump out at you (.899 SV%, 2.87 GAA) but he gave the Flyers a chance to win without Hart as they won 16 of his 27 starts.
1) Columbus Blue Jackets // Joonas Korpisalo & Elvis Merzlikins
As the Blue Jackets were plagued by injuries last season, it was their superb goaltending that kept them in the hunt.
Both 26 years old, the netminding duo of Korpisalo and Merzlikins showed that they could be the best in the league as they helped Columbus hold their opponents to just 177 goals over 70 games (third-best in the NHL).
The two split games fairly evenly last season with Korpisalo starting 35 games and Merzlikins starting in 31, with Merzlikins posting the better numbers (.923 SV% to Korpisalo’s .911 SV%) but it was Korpisalo who really stole the show in the playoffs and took over. Posting a .941 SV% over 9 games including an 85-save performance in their 5OT marathon against the Lightning in Game 1, Korpisalo was the breakout star of the playoffs despite only playing in two rounds.
Though he only played in three postseason games, Merzlikins was still very good (.946 SV %), but Tortorella chose to roll with the hot hand in Korpisalo.
While I think Carter Hart has the best chance to be the top goalie in the Metro, having two 26-year old goalies who both could be top of the line starters gives the edge to Columbus for now.
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