Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tampa's Goalie Woes

Perhaps the easiest way for a team to significantly improve in trade deadline deals is for a team with good scoring, a defence that allows a low number of shots and weak goaltending to add a good goalie.

Last year, Edmonton was that team. I wrote about poor goaltending last season when Jussi Markkanen, Ty Conklin and Mike Morrison were sharing the duties. At trade deadline time last year, they added Dwayne Roloson and with a bit of luck on their side, went to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals.

This year, the team in that position is the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have a good offence, which is led by Martin St Louis, Vincent LeCavelier and Brad Richards (perhaps the best threeway offensive punch in the NHL). They have a solid defence, which has allowed only 26.8 shots per game (fourth in the NHL). However, their goaltending has not been so good. Their 3.06 goals against average has them in 20th place in the NHL.

This season, their goaltending has been split between Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis. Neither has been outstanding. Holmqvist has a 2.65 GAA with a .901 saves percentage. Denis has been worse. He has a 3.16 GAA and a .880 saves percentage. Tampa has not had good goaltending since Nikolai Khabibulin led them to the Stanley Cup.

If this team could add a top goalie in time for the stretch drive and the playoffs they could be very dangerous. Let's watch them as the trade deadline approaches to see if this can happen.

Goaltending is everything in the NHL. Toronto goaltenders have posted a .889 save percentage, good for 4th worst in the NHL. But they sit just 6 points (with a game in hand) behind Ottawa whose goalies have posted a .911 save percentage. If the Leafs had Ottawa's goaltending, would they be a better team than Ottawa? Quite possibly, but most people percieve Ottawa as one of the better teams int he League and the Leafs as a mediocre one. Toronto gives up fewer shots per game than Ottawa (29.0 vs 30.5) and scores almost as many goals per game as Ottawa (3.18 vs 3.32). One could easily argue that the difference between the two teams is goaltending. New Jersey and Vancouver have two of the worst offenses in the league yet both are good teams based on stellar goaltenders (first and fifth in team save %).
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