Welcome to the glorious Western Conference! The earlier Keepin’ Up With The Goalies, the Atlantic & Metropolitan divisions, were in the Eastern Conference, where men are men and Twitter complains when west coast games end at 1 AM. Here in the Central Division (or Conference III) this goalie news does not include playoff hockey. For playoff coverage though, continue to follow @ThePinkPuck and The Pink Puck for all that heart-pounding, nail-biting, ‘furiously making 5 lbs of fudge at 2 AM because you are sure that you just watched Hossa be murdered on the ice in 2012’ playoffs fun!
Chicago Blackhawks: Even with missing a few months earlier in the year due to an off-ice injury, Corey Crawford has been as consistent as ever. He even won the William Jennings Trophy (given to goaltenders whose team allows the fewest goals during the regular season) for the second time in his career, sharing it with Carey Price. And he used a new mask that supports the USA Warriors and former Blackhawks equipment manager Clint Reif. It was only worn once and then auctioned off to the Clint Reif memorial fund.
As of April 1st, Scott Darling (@SDarling_33) was 8-3-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, which normally would be a pretty good backup goalie story, but he is also the team’s Masterton Nominee for so much more. After playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and American Hockey League (AHL) while battling alcoholism — he has now been sober since 2011 — while playing for his home team (he’s from Lemont, IL a suburb of Chicago) and this is the first season he’s been able to show what he can do in the NHL.
Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov finished the 2014-2015 season with a record of 28-20-8 with a 2.56 goals-against-average and a .921 save percentage. His 20 losses made him 10th in the league.
Calvin Pickard, the 22-year-old rookie, debuted this season in October when Reto Berra went down with an injury during a game against Ottawa. He ended the season 6-7-3 with a 2.35 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage and was in goal for 895 mins. That last stat is important because this season was his third straight season of playing in 40 or more AHL games.
Reto Berra didn’t play that often this season, as Varlamov’s backup, but the 26-year-old Swiss goalie, in his second year on the Avs, came into the game on March 25 after Varlamov let in 3 goals. The next night, Patrick Roy started him against Winnipeg, where he had a 41-save shutout in a 1-0 shootout victory. He also finished the season 5-4-1 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.65 goals-against-average which isn’t all that bad.
Dallas Stars: As mentioned in the Keepin’ Up With The Goalies’ Atlantic article, Anders Lindback was the backup for most of the season. Kari Lehtonen’s season was pretty much a continuation of his career of frustrating fans (‘sup, Atlanta Thrashers). From the Dallas Morning News:
Kari Lehtonen’s season baffles even Kari Lehtonen.
The 31-year-old goalie tied a career high in wins and ranked ninth in the NHL at 34-17-10. However, he posted near career worsts in goals against average (2.94) and save percentage (.903).
Among the 42 goalies who played enough games to qualify to be among the NHL leaders, Lehtonen ranked 36th in GAA and 39th in save percentage.
Jhonas Enroth, who learned he was traded to Dallas while he was on his couch watching a soccer game, saw his save percentage go from .903 (in Buffalo) to .873 at the end of March (though, he finished with .906 in his 13 games played for the Stars) Also, his Stars mask glows in the dark, which is awesome.
Minnesota Wild: There might be other goalies for the Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom), but Devan Dubnyk is the best. When he was in the Edmonton Oilers system, it seemed as if the Oilers messed up his confidence in being a goalie by the end of his five years in Edmonton. He was ‘mentored‘ by Nikolai Khabibulin and Ilya Bryzgalov and bounced to Nashville where he lost the starter/backup job to Carter Hutton after Pekka Rinne was injured in 2014 and then was traded
for magic beans for future considerations to the Montreal Canadiens, who sent him to their AHL team, even when they needed goal support in the playoffs with a Carey Price injury. At the start of this season, he signed a 1-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes where he allowed former NHL goalie Sean Burke to tweak his style. On Jan. 15th he was traded to the Wild and is an extremely large reason why the Wild are in the playoffs.
Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne is the Preds Masterton nominee (making the Central division amount of goalies in the running for the Masterton, the most at 3), because last season he had hip surgery that then became infected and this season, he’s having a career year with his second 40-win season. Rinne, 32, of Finland is the son of a constructor, and one of the 3 tallest starting goaltenders in the NHL at 6’5″ (his former backup and still very good friend, Anders Lindback is 6’6″ and Ben Bishop is 6’7″). During a game in early March, a puck went off Pekka’s stick and when he saw that it hit a young girl, he asked questions and found out that she was at the game to celebrate her 11th birthday. He signed one of his sticks for her with the note “To Mia, Happy Birthday! Sorry” because goalies are the best.
Carter Hutton, his backup from the true NHL capital of Canada, Thunder Bay (Hutts30 on IG/@CarterHutton) during the regular season would talk to the Predators announcers from the bench during almost every game and was on the Blackhawks in 2013 (he’s not on the Cup or the Official Photo, but does have a Stanley Cup ring). He’s got a very unique playing style, which occasionally gets him press for ‘saves of the year‘ types of saves.
St. Louis Blues: Did you hear that Martin Brodeur was a St. Louis Blue from December 2014 – January 2015? Blues’ goalie Brian Elliott was injured and Marty ended with a 3-3-0, 1 shutout, 2.87 GAA, and a .899 save percentage record as well as a front office job in St. Louis.
Otherwise, Elliott, who has been the starting goalie for the Blues since Jaroslav Halak was injured in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, was the Blues 2015 All-Star representative (after Bobrovsky was injured). He also surpassed Halak for Blues’ franchise record in shutouts on March 17th with 21. Of course, this is where I mention Martin Brodeur’s New Jersey Devils’ franchise record of 124 shutouts.
Jake Allen, 24, finished the regular season as the NHL’s winningest rookie at 22-7-4. He’s one of three Blues rookie goaltenders in their history to ever lead the NHL in wins.
Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec is now in his eighth year in the NHL (weird how the time flies when you still miss the Thrashers) and he’s the Jets’ Masterton nominee. For the first time in those years, he’s playing really good hockey. As of April 3rd, in 46 games, he’s had career bests with a 2.41 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. And then on April 7th, he had his 15th career shutout, making it a franchise record for the Jets (Kari Lehtonen held the record previously when in Atlanta at 14). Pavelec (or Pavelectric if you would) also has a beautiful mask with Bruce Springsteen on it.
His backup, Michael Hutchinson, besides having the best ‘so close to being a rock & roll name,’ ends his second NHL season on a very high and hot note at 21-19-5 with a 2.39 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.