The NHL season is a quarter of the way over, and after a weird, couple of months, we probably know less about our favorite teams than we thought we did back in September. Aside from the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks being their usual selves, everything else just doesn’t seem right. Who’d have thought the Colorado Avalanche would have more points than crazy Patrick Roy outbursts at this point in the season? Who could’ve seen Jaromir Jagr, at age 41, leading his team in scoring with 18 points while on the verge of breaking some records? What about the rise and fall of the New York Islanders, a promising young team in October to a mediocre one in November? On the flip side, you now have a Flyers team who is all of a sudden looking like a contender again. Ah, sports, am I right? You love it, you hate it, you want to throw a rabid chainsaw-wielding monkey at it, but at the end of the day, you love it. Another thing you gotta love about sports is how in any given season, there’s always a chance for new stars to shine, and so far in this young NHL season, a few unfamiliar names in goal have been shining the brightest.
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Former Ottawa Senator Ben Bishop has been a Godsend for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year. Once the understudy to Craig Anderson in Ottawa, Bishop was picked up by the Bolts late last year and has been giving them the solid goaltending the team needed ever since. With Stamkos recently placed on the IR, Bishop might be seeing more pucks, but that shouldn’t be a problem thanks to his 13 – 3 – 1 record, 2.20 goals-against average, and .926 save percentage.
Ben Scrivens, LA Kings
Jonathan Quick, the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender for the LA Kings, was placed on the IR after suffering a groin muscle injury on November 12. Although his numbers up to that point were average at best, Quick was/is still a talented goaltender who is arguably the backbone of that team, especially during their Cup run in 2012. This past summer, the Kings ceded former backup Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they received back up Ben Scrivens in return, which was a good (albeit strange given their previous goaltender’s performance last season) move for the Leafs but not so much for the Kings. Up to that point, Scrivens had only started 32 games total over two seasons, with a record of 11 – 14 – 2. Since filling in for Quick Scrivens has been sharp, shutting out the Devils and the Rangers back-to-back at the end of an east coast road trip, and owning a .927 save percentage and 1.37 goals-against average for the season. The LA Kings in turn haven’t missed a beat and are now 4 – 0 – 2 with Scrivens between the pipes.
Marek Mazanec, Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators were certainly dealt a rough hand after learning on October 22nd that their star goaltender Pekka Rinne was diagnosed with an infection in his hip. As of today, the Predators still don’t know when he will be back, as Rinne is reportedly still on crutches. The team first tried to fill the Rinne-shaped hole with Carter Hutton, but he wasn’t able to step up, sporting a 3.39 GAA. So, the team gave the rookie Marek Mazanec from Czechoslovakia a go, and so far, he seems to be the calming medicine the Preds needed. He’s been pretty solid so far: 3 – 1 in his last four starts, and he hasn’t allowed more than two goals in either of them. Manzanec now has a 2.32 GAA with a .929 save percentage. Perhaps the kid is onto something.
Cam Talbot, New York Rangers
Let’s face it: the New York Rangers were an awful hockey team at the beginning of the year. Their offensive woes continued over from last season, a normal solid defense was porous and error-prone, and even King Henrik himself was ordinary at best. While the Rangers certainly had legitimate excuses (i.e. new coach, new system, and a long-ass road trip against the NHL’s top teams in the west to begin the season), something just wasn’t right. Lundqvist had to sit out a few games with an undisclosed injury, and during that time, rookie Cam Talbot had to keep the king’s throne warm. During his first 6 starts in the NHL, the “Goal-buster” Talbot has been everything the Rangers could ask for (and more): 5 – 1 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .949 SV%. Not only that, but he was the first Rangers goaltender to shutout the Canadiens in Montreal since Ed Giacomin in February of 1967. Oh, and he recorded another shutout in his next start in Nashville on Saturday. Keep Cam and Talbot On, New York.