The upcoming shortened, compact NHL season will feature plenty of back-to-back games. As such, it has never been more important for NHL teams to have a strong one-two punch in the crease. The goaltending market was already in short supply before the unfortunate news of a heart condition forced Henrik Lundqvist into surgery. Then, when the recent retirement of Corey Crawford became public, it forced teams to reexamine their importance at the position.
This has left several teams scrambling, but there other clubs that are in very good shape. Given the premium on strong goaltending this season, below is my ranking of the top 10 tandems in the NHL:
1) Robin Lehner and Marc-André Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights
The acquisition and subsequent signing of Robin Lehner, along with already having an excellent starter in Marc-André Fleury, means the Vegas Golden Knights have a formidable tandem. The pair provide a great combination of experience, talent, and resiliency. Vegas already had a stingy defence, but the addition of Alex Pietrangelo makes this duo the best in show.
There will be questions about how many starts each netminder gets and there may always be some background chatter when it comes to Fleury potentially being moved. But, if the Golden Knights hold onto both players all season, there may not be a stronger duo.
2) Carey Price and Jake Allen – Montreal Canadiens
The offseason addition of Jake Allen provides Canadiens head coach Claude Julien a quality and stable backup option for franchise goaltender, Carey Price. The stability was necessary, and that peace of mind will be a relief to the franchise, as well as Prices workload.
With a total price tag of $14.85 million combined AAV, they are also the highest paid combo in the league. Still, somehow the team has done a good job of filling in the rest of the roster around their combined salaries. The expectations in Montreal have risen, and Allen will play a big role in helping the team meet them.
3) Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo – Columbus Blue Jackets
The two 26-year-olds in Ohio have become a perfect pairing for a defence-first Columbus Blue Jackets squad. The team was patient with each European goaltender – Latvian Elvis Merzlikins, and Joonas Korpisalo of Finland – and it is now paying off.
Both players signed two-year deals within a week of each other in April 2020, and I have a hunch they are just getting into their groove as a traditional tandem.
There’s been a bit of chatter from insiders suggesting the Blue Jackets are a team to watch in trade speculation and a goaltender often seems to pop into the conversation, but it would be an odd decision to move one when two are so badly needed.
4) Jacob Markström and David Rittich
One of the more interesting developments this past offseason was the small exodus of three former Vancouver Canucks to Calgary with the Flames. The biggest name to make this divisional switch was 30-year-old starting goaltender, Jacob Markström (other two: Josh Leivo, F and Brandon Tanev, D).
The big Swede joins David Rittich who posted a 24-17-6 record last season in Calgary. The Flames have been missing a legitimate starting goaltender over the last several seasons, but they now have their man.
Rittich says he’s not bothered by the fact Calgary brought in a clear No. 1 and says the internal competition will be a good thing.
5) Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halák – Boston Bruins
Overshadowed by his early exit from the Toronto playoff bubble, it would be foolish to look past Tuukka Rask and running mate Jaroslav Halak. They were a lethal pair and big factor in the Boston Bruins becoming 2020 Presidents’ Trophy champions for best regular season record.
Despite some changes to the Bruins defensive core, the two should have no problem picking up where they left off.
What happens after this season is still very much unclear, but for the 2020-21 campaign, this tandem is still well respected and has a lot to offer. They may need to steal a few games for a Bruins team that has taken some hits in other areas.
6) Andrei Vasilevskiy and Curtis McElhinney – Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have one of the best goaltenders in the world with 26-year-old Russian, Andrei Vasilevskiy. He was nothing short of brilliant during the 2020 playoff run that ended in the organizations second Stanley Cup.
The fact that he was able to play every playoff game was an amazing feat, but it also clouded a respectable regular season from backup Curtis McElhinney. The 37-year-old posted an 8-7-3 record during the Lightning’s 2019-20 campaign.
7) Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev – New York Rangers
New York Ranger goaltender Igor Shesterkin is expected and capable of a breakout rookie season. If his 12 game NHL debut last season was an indication of his capabilities, then he could carry the next crown as King of New York. During his first NHL games, the 25-year-old collected 10 wins and posted a 2.52 goals against average along with a .932 save percentage.
His partner, 24-year-old Alexandar Georgiev, has already proven himself capable over the several seasons as he grew into a platoon role with long-time Ranger starter, Henrik Lundqvist. This is a team on the rise and a new age has dawn in the crease with Shesterkin and Georgiev.
8) Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta – Arizona Coyotes
During a stretch of time last season, the goaltending duo of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta was creating a reputation as one of the league’s best. The Arizona Coyotes are a team in transition and may not have the same firepower and defense playing in front of them, but this crease combo is still capable of stealing games in a West division where several clubs are also rebuilding.
There was a lot of talk this offseason about one of the goalies being moved and it’s probably smart that the Coyotes elected not to trade one. Both will be needed and if the organization does decide to dump one of their salaries, there will be a host of NHL teams interested in overpaying for them.
9) Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin – Dallas Stars
Before the 2020 post-season it might have been impossible to predict Anton Khudobin as the Dallas Stars starting goaltender. However, his play during the teams Stanley Cup Final run has to make him the frontrunner heading into the 2020-21 season. His partner, Ben Bishop, will need to prove he can bounce back as his postseason play after returning from injury was far from sharp. At 34, these two players will need to maintain a balanced workload to avoid injury as that could have a negative impact on this team.
10) Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz – Colorado Avalanche
One could argue that neither player is a legitimate starting goaltender, but Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer have quickly become a good tag team for the Colorado Avalanche.
The 2019-20 season was their first full season together and it was a near 50/50 split during the regular as Grubauer played in 36 games and Francouz featured in 34. Late season injuries forced the playoff rotation out of whack, but this traditional tandem should have a solid season playing behind one of the best teams in the NHL.
Did I miss any tandems in the top-10? Do any of these tandems not belong in the top-10? Let me know!
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