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Last week, we covered the Eastern Conference goalies of the teams fighting for the playoffs.  (Click here for the Eastern report.)  Now, let’s move on to the Western Conference, with 10 teams vying for the 8 playoff spots. Goaltending in this conference is relatively weak, meaning that we should expect the unexpected in the playoffs.  Without further ado, let’s start ranking.  We begin with the Calgary Flames.


Team: Calgary Flames

Tandem: Miikka Kiprusoff, Roman Turek

Analysis: Arguably the biggest surprise in the West, the Flames find themselves poised to break the longest playoff drought in the NHL because of their top netminder in Kiprusoff. He has the league’s top GAA and save percentage of goalies that have played at least 1,080 minutes. Many feel that the Flames could be the darkhorse of the postseason if Kiprusoff keeps up his play, which is easier said than done. Kiprusoff has the same amount of playoff experience as yours truly, none, and people forget he was San Jose’s #3 goalie to start the season, so inexperience will be a concern for the Flames. Turek, recently cleared waivers, and has spent more time on the IR than on the ice the past 2 seasons, and, despite having some playoff experience, should not be an option for Darryl Sutter down the stretch.

Farm Relief: Dany Sabourin, Brent Krahn

Injuries: None

Rank: 5th in the Western Conference


Team: Colorado Avalanche

Tandem: David Aebischer, Tommy Salo

Analysis: Aebischer has silenced all of his critics thus far with a solid performance in the regular season for the Avalanche, but the real test is yet to come. After a shocking first round exit last season, the Avalanche will be out for revenge, and Aebischer’s performance will be looked at with a fine-tooth comb, if he struggles, who knows what will happen? To ensure that they would not have to use a rookie in case Aebischer falters, Colorado acquired Salo at the deadline for a prospect. Salo has some playoff and “big-game” experience, however, he has not been overly successful. Colorado hopes that this was because of the calibre of the team in front of him, and not Salo’s overall talent level. With these two, goaltending shouldn’t be too big of a concern in the postseason.

Farm Relief: Phillipe Sauve (NHL), Peter Budaj

Injuries: None

Rank: 2nd in the Western Conference


Team: Dallas Stars

Tandem: Marty Turco, Ron Tugnutt

Analysis: The Stars have rebounded nicely after a somewhat rough 2002-03 season, mainly because of their goaltending. Turco has rebounded into elite form after a contract squabble, and boasts a GAA around 2.00. Turco has limited playoff experience, but that’s to be expected given that he’s one of the younger goalies in the NHL, but he has fared somewhat nicely in his previous postseason outings. Tugnutt is a proven backup, but he has spent significant time on the injured reserve, as well as some time in the minors, so his reliability may be a concern to some. Tugnutt’s playoff record isn’t exactly stellar, but he hasn’t been on the greatest of playoff teams either, which tarnishes his record somewhat. Like the Avs, Dallas’ goaltending shouldn’t be their downfall in the playoffs this year.

Farm Relief: Jason Bacashihua, Dan Ellis

Injuries: None

Rank: 3rd in the Western Conference


Team: Detroit Red Wings

Tandem: Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace

Analysis: The much-maligned Detroit goaltending controversy finally appears to be over, and now the goalies can just focus on playing, that is, if they can stay healthy. Joseph, now the number one on paper, continues to be hurt on a tri-weekly basis, and his current injury may hold him out until the beginning of the playoffs. When Joseph is healthy, he is an elite netminder who, despite failing to have won a Cup so far, has won some big playoff games, and his inexperience in the Finals shouldn’t be a concern. Legace is without a doubt the NHL’s best backup, and could be the number one on some teams. However, his playoff experience has been restricted to spot duty here and there, and even then his actual minutes played are very low. Unlike most inexperienced goalies though, this will not be a concern for Detroit, as Legace has carried the load before, and won some big games this season.

Farm Relief: Marc Lamothe, Joey MacDonald

Injuries: Dominik Hasek (NHL-out for season), Joseph (currently DTD-overall health is a concern though)

Rank: 1st in the Western Conference


Team: Edmonton Oilers

Tandem: Jussi Markkanen, Ty Conklin

Analysis: The Oilers are on a roll as of late and find themselves pushing for a playoff spot, and the goaltending has played a significant role in this turnaround. However, this remains a fairly weak tandem, with no experience in the postseason between either of the goalies. Markkanen, now the number one, has had a stellar season by his account; most often than not, he was the better of the two goalies in New York before being dealt back to Edmonton. In his few games with the Oilers, he has done quite well. If I were head coach Craig MacTavish, I’d be comfortable with Markkanen heading into the playoffs…as a backup. Conklin is currently in his rookie season, and thus has no playoff experience at the NHL level. Last season, he carried the Hamilton Bulldogs to game 7 of the Calder Cup finals, before losing to Houston. The two form a capable tandem for the regular season at least, but for now, it also forms a big question mark because of inexperience. They could surprise though.

Farm Relief: Tyler Moss, Michael Morrison

Injuries: None

Rank: 10th in the Western Conference


Team: Los Angeles Kings

Tandem: Roman Cechmanek, Cristobal Huet

Analysis: To say the Kings have been decimated by injuries is likely the understatement of the season; almost every skater has been injured at one point or another. The injuries have not stayed away from the goalies either, as Cechmanek has missed significant time and just returned from his latest injury. When healthy, Cechmanek can still be a concern with his unorthodox style of play, and this is just the regular season we’re talking about here. In the playoffs, he has been scrutinized further, which was the reason he landed in LA in the first place. Huet is a young backup who has no North American big-game experience, but has kept the oft-injured Kings in the playoff race to this point in the year. If Los Angeles makes the playoffs, expect them to start Cechmanek, but he’ll be on a short leash, don’t be surprised if Huet gets an appearance or two this postseason.

Farm Relief: Milan Hnilicka, Mathieu Chouinard

Injuries: None

Rank: 7th in the Western Conference


Team: Nashville Predators

Tandem: Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason

Analysis: This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but here we have yet another duo with no playoff experience at all. This being said, Vokoun arguably could get some Vezina votes in the lower areas (3,4,5), as he has carried this team singlehandedly for the most part of the season. Despite having no playoff experience, Vokoun is one of the top goalies in the NHL, and could steal a series if the Preds can hold on to their playoff spot. If Vokoun goes down though, it’s lights out for Nashville, as Mason is a marginal NHL backup at best, with limited playoff experience at the lower levels, and none in the NHL. If the Preds can stay healthy, they may be able to win a round if Vokoun is on his game, but nothing more than that.

Farm Relief: Brian Finley, Wade Flaherty

Injuries: None

Rank: 9th in the Western Conference


Team: St. Louis Blues

Tandem: Chris Osgood, Reinhard Divis

Analysis: St. Louis is one of those teams that always leave one saying “That’s it?”. This season, they have underachieved immensely, and find themselves in danger of missing the playoffs, and ending the NHL’s longest streak in consecutive postseason appearances. To blame one single aspect of the team for this collapse wouldn’t be right, but goaltending seems to be at the forefront. Osgood has been inconsistent at best this season, and struggled last year after being dealt to the Blues, in both the regular season and playoffs. If Osgood can find his game, he is a more than capable goalie in the playoffs, but given his performance as of late, that’s a pretty big ‘if’. Divis is a bit of an unknown; he’s been with the Blues almost all year, but is rarely mentioned, perhaps because of his inconsistent play. If Osgood goes down, the Blues are in trouble, but that’s only if they actually make the postseason. And even then, if they just squeak in, there’s a question of motivation that’s been lurking all season.

Farm Relief: Curtis Sanford, Cody Rudkowsky

Injuries: None

Rank: 8th in the Western Conference


Team: San Jose Sharks

Tandem: Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala

Analysis: Last season, everyone expected them to be Cup contenders, and they missed the playoffs. This year, no one expected them to even make the playoffs, and they’re leading their division. Although they have received many surprise contributions from their skaters, the biggest reason for their return to prominence has been their goaltending. Nabokov has re-established himself as one of the elite goalies in the league, after a rough 2002-03 season. The way he’s been playing this season, he could steal a series or two himself alone, but he won’t need to given the depth of the Sharks. Toskala won the battle for the backup job over Miikka Kiprusoff, who was then dealt to Calgary. For those who don’t know much about Toskala, just consider the fact that he beat out Kiprusoff for the job. Toskala has no postseason experience, but he has had to carry the load at times this season, so he could fill in if necessary and do a capable job.

Farm Relief: Seamus Kotyk, Nolan Schaefer, Dimitri Patzold (all 3 have been recalled this season.)

Injuries: None

Rank: 6th in the Western Conference


Team: Vancouver Canucks

Tandem: Dan Cloutier, Johan Hedberg

Analysis: The Canucks seem poised to take another run at the Cup this season, but one looming question still hangs over their head: Will the goalies be able to step up? All season long, fans have been clamoring for Cloutier to be dealt, but he remains with the team. Last season, Cloutier’s weaknesses were exposed, and he received heavy criticism from the media, some warranted, some not. There’s no doubting that Cloutier is a quality netminder, but is he a legit number one, or an above average number two? Here, he’s the starter, and should fare decently in the postseason if he can keep his confidence level high. Hedberg is a quality backup goalie with limited playoff experience, but is arguably one of the better backups in the West, and could spell Cloutier if he falters.

Farm Relief: Alex Auld, Rob McVicar

Injuries: None

Rank: 4th in the Western Conference

*If all of the number one goalies were unable to perform, then the ranks would be as follows: (Factors: Current performance, playoff experience, overall potential)

1) Detroit

2) Colorado

3) Vancouver

4) Los Angeles

5) Dallas

6) San Jose

7) Edmonton

8) St. Louis

9) Calgary

10) Nashville


Next week, we’ll take a look at a variety of goal scoring areas, goals scored, goals allowed, as well as special teams to see what teams are strongest in this department. 


Questions/comments?  E-mail me at [email protected].