Put Me In Coach; The NHL’s Top 5 Backup Goaltenders
Much like their football equivalents at quarterback, backup goaltenders in the NHL often remain masked in anonymity until called upon, whether as a premeditated day of rest for the starter or in the unthinkable case of an injury. Here are five guys who teams can feel confident about if the starter needs to step out for any extended period of time....
Thomas Griess, NY Islanders
The New York Islanders, who were seeking for their first playoff series victory since the original Jurassic Park came out in theaters, could've easily wilted when starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak went down with an injury. However, Griess came in and performed brilliantly playing 41 games, earning 23 wins for the starved for success Islanders, who secured the East's top wild card spot. It was also Griess who was between the pipes for the historic Islander series victory over Florida. Griess will likely give way upon Halak's return this season, but Griess, who played his most meaningful minutes in a career that also had stops in San Jose and Arizona, made a name for himself last postseason, and if that continues, he could be starting somewhere next season.
Scott Darling, Chicago
Leave it the mini-hockey dynasty in the Windy City to have a solid backup in Darling, who, by partaking in the most recent Chicago title in 2015, has his named etched forever on the Stanley Cup, the first Chicago-raised player to do so as a member of the Blackhawks (he grew up in the suburb of Lemont). Darling stumbled a little bit last season, posting a GAA of 2.58 in 29 appearances last season, but during the Cup year, not only did he star in the regular season, going 9-4 with a 1.94 GAA, but also won three games for the Blackhawks en route to their 3rd Stanley Cup of the decade. Combined over two seasons, Darling has a GAA of 2.36.
James Reimer, Florida
Remember that jersey that had all the names of the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks taped on it? You could probably do the same thing with Toronto Maple Leafs goalies since the lost season of 2004-05, and Reimer is one of the many names on that list. Ineffective as a starter, Reimer, the lone goalie to start Maple Leaf playoff games since the lost season, took on a new role as a backup when he went over to San Jose in a trade deadline deal. In 8 appearances with San Jose, he went 6-2-0 with a 1.62 GAA and served as Martin Jones's backup during the Sharks' run to the Stanley Cup last season. It's a new role for Reimer, but for a young team like the Panthers, who already have a good starting tender in Roberto Luongo, to have a veteran prescience in net for all 82 games of the season is huge for a young budding team like Florida.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay
Ben Bishop is a tremendous younger talent in net for a perennial contender like Tampa Bay, but he has missed some time due to injury, including during last year's postseason. A former 1st round pick Vasilevskiy has developed alongside Bishop and could probably start for a fair number of teams with a little more progress. While the Vasilevskiy playoff games have not always ended in Tampa Bay's favor, postseason experience is always a valuable skill in a goaltender. He also has some international experience, helping Russia win the 2014 IIHF World Championships in Minsk.
Al Montoya, Montreal
Again to bring up the NFL quarterback comparison, there are certain QB's who have made a solid living serving as a backup. You can't trust them to carry the full-time weight of the franchise, but in a pinch, they can easily carry the load for a little while. Montoya is one of those guys. The first Cuban-American to play in the NHL, Montoya has been a league staple since 2010, having serviceably helped several teams in the league, including the Islanders, Jets and Panthers, and now plays for his fourth team in Montreal. The Habs have a world class goaltender in Carey Price, but they were sunk last season when he missed a good majority of the season with an injury. Montoya can provide a good stopgap and a veteran prescience should the unthinkable in Habs lands go down again.
Who are your top backup NHL goaltenders? Tweet @GeoffMags5490 and keep the conversation going.
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