It is often said that goaltending wins championships. Over the next few weeks, I am going to be evaluating the goalie tandems in each division to see which teams have solid netminders and which are falling behind. This week we look at the best and worst goalie tandems in the Central Division so far this season.
In the 1990s and 2000s, teams tried to have a spectacular starting goalie who would play most of their games, and backup goalies were used sparingly. However, things have changed in recent years. The focus is now on having a good tandem of goalies who can both be relied on to win games. A solid tandem can make a good team great; a shaky tandem can make a good team tank.
The Best and Worst Goalie Tandems in the Central Division so Far This Season.
Best: Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger: 5-1-0; 0.952 SV%; 1.40 GAA; 1 SO
Scott Wedgewood: 3-2-1; .908 SV%, 3.06 GAA
It is not surprising that the team who has the goalie with the highest SV% and the lowest GAA would be ranked the best. But it’s not just Jake Oettinger playing well for the Stars. Scott Wedgewood has been a more than capable backup for the Stars. Both Oettinger and Wedgewood have had three-game win streaks already this season and have combined to hold their opponents to an average of 2.25 goals per game. Their only questionable loss of the season was a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on October 24th.
On the backs of Oettinger and Wedgewood, the Stars are currently in first place in the Central Division and second place in the Western Conference. Combined, the tandem has a SV% of 0.930 and a GAA of 2.17, both of which are the best out of all the tandems in the division. But it’s not just their traditional stats where they are excelling. They are also leading the Central in GSAx (13.3 combined) and GSAx/60 (2.15 combined). Unfortunately, Oettinger has been out with a lower-body injury for the past week, and there hasn’t been a recent update on his status. But when both goalies are healthy, this is a tandem any team would be happy to have.
Worst: Minnesota Wild
Marc-Andre Fleury: 5-2-1; 0.888 SV%; 3.41 GAA
Filip Gustavsson: 0-3-0; 0.878 SV%; 3.93 GAA
One of the most talked about storylines so far this season has been the poor goaltending of the Minnesota Wild. Expectations were high for the Wild this year after they finished second in the Western Conference last year. Newly acquired Marc-Andre Fleury (the active leader in wins, shutouts, and games played) was considered the piece that could put the team over the top. However, both Fleury and Gustavsson (acquired in the offseason from Ottawa) have been nothing short of disappointing so far this season. As a tandem, they have allowed their opponents to score 3.64 goals per game on average.
Combined, the tandem has a SV% of 0.886 (last in the Central) and a GAA of 3.53 (second last in the Central). Their advanced stats are arguably more disappointing. They are also last in the Central in both GSAx (-7.7 combined) and GSAx/60 (-1.79 combined). Despite these numbers, the Wild have managed to remain in the Wild Card picture in the Western Conference, so if Fleury and Gustavsson can manage to find their rhythm, this poor start could fade like a bad memory. But if things stay the way they are, it’s going to be a long season in Minnesota.
Fun Fact: The record for most games played in a season by a goalie is held by Grant Fuhr. In the 1995-96 season, he played in 79 games for the St. Louis Blues.