This blog has stated time and time again that a backup goalie can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. The example we hammered home last year was the Dallas Stars, who had nobody reliable to step in and give struggling Kari Lehtonen a break. And so this offseason the Stars went out and got Antti Niemi. Things are going much better for them now.
But things aren’t going so well for these five backups:
Eddie Lack: Many believed Lack would’ve usurped Cam Ward by now. Hasn’t happened. The affable 27-year-old is 3-6-1 with an .876 save percentage. With better goaltending, the Hurricanes could be right there in the wild-card race. Seriously. They could be. Stop laughing.
Alex Stalock: Sharks GM Doug Wilson rolled the dice on two goalies with a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million. While Martin Jones has held up his end of the bargain, Stalock has not, going 2-4-0 with an .891 save percentage. San Jose may still make the playoffs anyway, because the Pacific Division. But Stalock isn’t doing himself any favors. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent.
Anders Lindback: Last year, he was the Stars’ backup who wasn’t getting it done. This year, he’s the Coyotes’. Now, to be fair, the Stars had defensive issues, and so do the Coyotes. It’s hard to say how much that’s hurt his numbers. But nobody can say that the 27-year-old hasn’t been given an opportunity to prove himself in the NHL. Arizona is Lindback’s fifth team since 2011-12.
Jacob Markstrom: Granted, he missed the first chunk of the season with an injury, and he’s had a couple of decent starts since returning. But Markstrom had a great chance to earn his coach’s trust the previous Saturday in a “must” game against Boston. He proceeded to allow four goals on 22 shots, and he hasn’t played since. Remember that the Canucks made the playoffs last year in large part due to the play of the aforementioned Lack. It’s hard to see them making them again if 35-year-old Ryan Miller can’t get the odd night off.
Curtis McElhinney: OK, we’re obviously not trying to pin all the Blue Jackets’ problems on their backup goalie. But with an 0-5-2 record and .891 save percentage, McElhinney sure hasn’t been part of the solution. You think back to when Todd Richards was the still the coach and he kept running “zero confidence” Sergei Bobrovsky out there, and you wonder if things might’ve played out a bit differently if they’d had a reliable backup to help weather the storm.