Ranking Every NHL Team’s Goaltending Tandems
The role of the goaltender is arguably the most important position in the game of hockey. A team can simply not win without at least a half decent goalie. When you look at all the teams that finish near the top of the standings, they have great goaltending.
A great goaltending tandem starts with a solid number one goalie. While a few team’s do have goalies that split starts, having a true number one goalie especially helps come playoff time. Although having just one good goalie can take a team far, it helps to have a solid backup goalie to ease the load of the starter.
When it came down to choosing where the teams rank on this list, the deciding factor was the combined skill of both goaltenders on the team. For example, if a team has a great starter but a poor backup, they found themselves lower on the list.
Without further ado, here are the goaltending tandem rankings for all 31 NHL teams.
31. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
It’s crazy to think that it wasn’t too long ago that the Vancouver Canucks had arguably the best goalie duo in the league with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. For the last couple of seasons, they received decent goaltending from Ryan Miller. After losing Miller in free agency, their goaltending situation is rough, to say the least.
Their projected starter next season is Jacob Markstrom. While the big man from Sweden has been great in the minors, he’s had little success in the NHL. The Canucks addressed their goaltending in free agency by signing Anders Nilsson. While he was solid with the Buffalo Sabres last season, there’s a reason why he’s already with his sixth NHL franchise.
30. ARIZONA COYOTES
For the first time since 2011, the Arizona Coyotes are heading into a season with a brand new starting goalie. That starting goalie will be Antti Raanta who the Coyotes acquired in a trade with New York Rangers. Although Raanta has only been a backup so far in his NHL career, he’s been excellent. Raanta was the goalie the Coyotes had been targeting all along and he should get every opportunity to establish himself as a long term starter.
Behind Raanta will be Louis Domingue who first got his break with the Coyotes in 2014-15. While Domingue has had some good runs during his brief NHL career, he’s also has been downright terrible at times. The 2017-18 is a make or break year for Louis Domingue’s NHL career.
29. COLORADO AVALANCHE
The Colorado Avalanche were a dreadful team in 2016-17, and their goaltending didn’t do much to help. They entered last season with Semyon Varlamov as their starter, but he ended up missing half the season due to injury. In the games that he did get into, Varlamov was terrible, posting the by far the worst numbers of his career.
When Varlamov went down, the team turned to Calvin Pickard. While Pickard showed some promise, it’s all a moot point as he was selected by Vegas in the Expansion Draft. To replace Pickard, the Avalanche signed Jonathan Bernier in free agency. While Bernier had a solid season for the Ducks last year, his numbers are sure to inflate playing in front a poor Avalanche defense corps.
28. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
While Philadelphia Flyers look to have a promising future in goal, their current situation is pretty bleak. This offseason the Flyers lost their starting goaltender of the past four seasons in Steve Mason. As his replacement, the Flyers signed veteran Brian Elliott. While Elliott has shown he can be a solid goaltender, he’s not a goalie that will win you many games by himself.
Behind Elliott will be Michal Neuvirth, who will be entering his third season with the Flyers. While there was a time where it looked like Neuvirth had a chance to be a full-time starter in the NHL, it’s clear now that he’s more suited to a backup role. Hopefully, for Philadelphia, Neuvirth can have a bounce back year as he struggled last season with a save percentage sub .900.
27. CAROLINA HURRICANES
For the past decade, the Carolina Hurricanes have been led in goal by Cam Ward. While Ward has had a fantastic career, as he’s gotten older he’s had trouble avoiding injury. With Ward’s injury problems, the Hurricanes knew they needed to find their goaltender of the future. In 2015, the Hurricanes acquired Eddie Lack from Vancouver hoping he could be their guy. Well after two dismal seasons, Lack clearly didn’t cut it.
This past offseason Carolina once again hopes they found Cam Ward’s successor when they acquired Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. While Darling has proven to be more than capable backup in his brief NHL career, his sample size is fairly small. There is a chance Carolina found their future long-term starting goaltender. There is also a chance they just found another Eddie Lack.
26. WINNIPEG JETS
The Winnipeg Jets made a bold move heading into the 2016-17 season when they sent down their long time starter Ondrej Pavelec. They decided that second-year goalie Connor Hellebuyck was their best option. As his rather mediocre numbers showed, Hellebuyck just wasn’t ready for full-time duty.
With Pavelec in the minors, the only other goalie the Jets could turn to last season was a borderline NHL backup in Michael Hutchinson. This season the Jets are giving Hellebuyck some tougher competition with the acquisition of Steve Mason. It’s not like Mason was lights out in Philadelphia, but he might exactly what is needed in order for Hellebuyck to step up his game.
25. BUFFALO SABRES
Buffalo Sabres goaltending situation isn’t a stable one, to say the least. Ever since Ryan Miller left in 2014 they have been looking for a replacement. The one goalie they were counting on to carry the load was Robin Lehner. Although Lehner’s numbers in his first season with Sabres in 2015-16 were good, he was relegated to just 24 games due to injury.
This past season Lehner was finally able to stay healthy for a full season and had some good stats considering the defense he played behind. Lehner needs to once again stay healthy in 2017-18 if the Sabres are going to lock him up long term. The Sabres also brought back Chad Johnson in free agency who is one of the more underrated goalies in the league.