Tuesday, November 06, 2007

MVP And Best Goalie So Far

A little over a week ago, I picked Martin Biron of the Philadelphia Flyers as the top goalie in the NHL so far this season. Since then, Biron continues to play well and currently sports a .942 saves percentage and a 2.10 GAA, but another goalie has played phenomenally. This goalie is Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets. In his last four games, he has faced 108 shots and stopped 106 of them. That gives Leclaire an outstanding .957 saves percentage and a 1.12 GAA. He already has five shutouts in only nine games played.

Behind this MVP calibre goaltending, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the most improved teams in the NHL. They are 8-5 (with two losses counted as regulation ties). If the season ended now, the Blue Jackets would finish sixth in the NHL. A lot of this comes down to a better team defence under coach Ken Hitchcock, but the most important reason for their record is Pascal Leclaire. Their goaltending last season had a .896 saves percentage (with time split between Leclaire, Fredrik Norrena, Ty Conklin, Brian Boucher and Tomas Popperle). This season, they have a .944 team saves percentage (with Norrena and Leclaire having shared time). While improving team defence, Columbus has had a tremendous goaltending improvement that has dropped their goals allowed per shot allowed by almost half.

Leclaire turns 25 in a few days (November 7th) and was a high draft pick of the Blue Jackets (8th overall in 2001), but has thus far not had any prolonged NHL success. He appears to have turned the corner. This success so far this year is worthy of the Hart and Vezina Trophies should he keep it up. Although, Leclaire will likely have the most successful season of his career, keeping up these numbers would be such a tremendous accomplishment that I doubt he can do it. Pascal Leclaire has been the best player in the NHL so far this season by a wide margin.

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