When constructing a team in the NHL, one of the most crucial players is the goaltender. Over the past two weeks, three of the Metropolitan Division’ best goalies have gone done with injuries. While only one of the teams are currently in the playoff picture, this can have a dramatic impact on the remainder of the season. This is a quick look at the three goalies and how their respective teams can handle the absence of their top goaltender.
Lundqvist is perhaps the best goalie in the NHL and his injury is one that could have been more serious. In a game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Lundqvist got hit in the throat by a puck.
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) February 6, 2015
He finished the game and even played the next one before experiencing some problems. Lundqvist was diagnosed with a vascular condition that could have resulted in a stroke if he kept playing. It is hard to be sure when Lundqvist will make his return given the unusual injury, but expect him to come back either at the end of this month or the beginning of March.
New York is the best of the three teams in terms of having a legitimate backup goaltender. Cam Talbot has done a fine job filling in for Lundqvist, and the Rangers also have one of the best offenses in the NHL. Talbot has three shutouts on the season and his play isn’t too far behind Lundqvist.
Talbot is allowing 2.4 goals per game as opposed to Lundqvist’s 2.25. The play of Talbot will allow the Rangers to keep Lundqvist out until he is confident enough to return. The other goalie is Mackenzie Skapski, who is a rookie that still hasn’t made a debut yet, so there is no word on how he will handle a professional game. Even if Skapski struggles, the Rangers have the team to survive an injury to a key piece like Lundqvist.
Unfortunately for Columbus, this has been a tough season for Bobrovsky. After breaking his hand at the start of the season, Bobrovsky aggravated a groin injury going into the All-Star break. He should be the first of the three goalies to return from their injuries seeing as he has returned to the ice and is skating by himself.
Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky says he has not set a timetable for his return.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 13, 2015
It may be another week until he sees game action, but you can be sure that Columbus is going to try and ease him back into work. When he has been healthy, Bobrovsky hasn’t played as well as he normally does as his GAA is almost half a goal higher while his save percentage is ten points lower.
Columbus’ backup situation is the weakest among the three teams. They have a duo of Curtis McElhinney and Anton Forsberg. McElhinney has been up and down this season, but has been playing better as of late. Over the past three games, McElhinney has a 2-1-0 record with a 2.02 GAA with a save percentage of .941.
Forsberg doesn’t usually get a lot of time in net, as he hasn’t won either of his starts and has a 4.34 GAA. Columbus is eagerly waiting until Bobrovsky gets healthy as their playoff chances have taken a huge hit.
Mason is quietly having a great year for the disappointing Philadelphia Flyers. He has a record that is below .500, but a 2.27 GAA which is a hair behind Lundqvist. Mason has been dealing with knee injuries and recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.
Hextall: Steve Mason had successful arthroscopic surgery on his knee and timeline remains the same, 2-3 weeks.
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) February 12, 2015
Before he went under the knife, Mason got Philadelphia points in six of his last seven games. He is expected to be out two to three weeks, and hopefully they will be able to remain in contention in a tough Metropolitan Division. Philadelphia is only eight points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot and that is doable given the struggles of Boston.
The backup goalie situation is not as promising as New York, but the Flyers have an established backup in Ray Emery. Emery won a Stanley Cup as the backup for the Chicago Blackhawks. Emery has struggled in his time as backup this season posting a 3.25 GAA with a save percentage of .891. Neither of these are good numbers. The other goalie for the Flyers is Rob Zepp who has actually done well in his time. He has started four games and has a 3-1-0 record with a 2.92 GAA. While that isn’t a great number it certainly is better than how Emery is playing.
All three of these teams have playoff aspirations. The New York Rangers are in fourth place, while the Flyers are in fifth and the Blue Jackets are falling fast in seventh place. How soon these teams get their goalies back will go a long way in determining their final position at the end of the season. In hockey more than any other sport, defense wins championships and there is no better defender on the ice than the goalie.