Hello, hope everyone has enjoyed the first few weeks of the season. It’s been very exciting with quite a few surprises so far. It’s great to watch the young up-and-coming players get a chance and to see some others have bounce back starts.
I have watched closely as certain teams have used their backup goaltender a lot early on and all for different reasons: injury, poor play or just to limit the games played by the starter over the season. The backups have been a force, for the most part, and have contributed well. I have kept an eye on a few and like what I have seen so far.
He was written off after having to face a barrage of high quality chances in Ottawa, then was dispatched to Colorado, another team in transition. Lost in the shuffle, he has found a home in St. Louis and has given good minutes in light of a slow start from Jaroslav Halak. The 26-year-old Elliott has good skills and has shown he’s more than just a capable backup to play the odd game here and there.
Goaltenders are built bigger these days. The 6-foot-6, 21-year-old Panthers rookie showed his worth alone against the Montreal Canadiens when he made 40 saves for his second win of the season. He is the future of the Panthers in goal and Jose Theodore will be a good mentor for him. Markstrom has great feet for a big guy and moves well in the net. He will get more ice time in Florida as things get rolling and the schedule gets tougher.
The 38-year-old has done a great job of coming in for Marty Brodeur. Hedberg is a perfect backup who knows his role on a team and is excellent at giving quality minutes when an injury or poor play strikes. He is well liked by his teammates and can play great even after long stretches between starts – something that’s very tough to do.
Signed as a reliable backup to aging Dwayne Roloson, Garon is capable of giving starting minutes and getting on rolls himself. He is a flexible goaltender who covers the ice well. He’s great on breakaways and shootouts, plus he has a great relationship with Roloson as they were solid together in Edmonton. Garon is giving the Lightning the type of goaltending they need to stay in the hunt, while Roloson struggled through a slow start.
Although some may think he is going to be the starter in Vancouver, he is still the backup. He will probably eventually be a starter in this league, though likely on another team. Stranger things have happened. The 25-year-old has been a starter everywhere else in his career and has tremendous skills. He is a big goalie, covers a lot of net and has a great glove hand. I believe he is capable of being a No. 1 at this level, but he has to be patient for his chance.
The best part about watching hockey right now? Following the progression of certain players in the league. I am excited for the next few weeks as teams find their groove.
I left out a few backup goalies who have played well: Jonas Gustavsson in Toronto, Brent Johnson in Pittsburgh, Thomas Greiss in San Jose and Al Montoya in New York, to name a few. But again, that’s the beauty of chatting every couple weeks – we can follow the stories as they come up!
Enjoy the games, I certainly do,
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender currently working as an analyst for TSN. Nicknamed ‘Noodles,’ McLennan was drafted by the Islanders in 1991. He played 254 NHL games with the Flames, Rangers, Panthers, Wild, Blues and Isles, compiling a 80-109-33 record. He will be writing for THN.com throughout the season. Follow McLennan on Twitter @jamiemclennan29.