Josh Harding was a second round pick (38th overall) of Minnesota\'s back in 2002. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
They don’t get nearly as much of the spotlight as the starting goalies, but if you don’t believe backup netminders are important, just ask a team that doesn’t have a dependable No. 2. Who have been the league’s top backup backstoppers this season? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10.
At age 34, Giguere is the oldest goalie on this list, but he’s still got something left in his tank, winning two of his first four games as an Av, posting a 1.98 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
Pressed into more action because of Dwayne Roloson’s early-season slump, the well-travelled Garon amassed three wins, an overtime loss and a regulation defeat in his first six games to keep the Lightning out of the Eastern Conference basement. His last two games haven’t been his best – he posted a save percentage of .706 and .750 against Nashville and Florida – but the 33-year-old showed his worth last season in Columbus.
Ellis is notoriously streaky, but in his first full season with the Ducks, he’s been solid (1-1-0, 1.90 GAA, .941 SP) in two starts and clean-up duty.
Greiss has been the goalie of the future in San Jose for some time, but it took an injury to backup Antero Niittymaki to provide an opportunity for him with the Sharks this season. The 25-year-old has responded well, putting up a 3-2-0 mark, 1.99 GAA and .928 SP.
Nikolai Khabibulin is off to a brilliant start for the Oilers. However, his understudy isn’t so shabby either. Dubnyk has beaten Pittsburgh and Colorado – posting a .971 and .938 save percentage respectively – and has an overall 2.19 GAA and .930 SP this season.
Like Giguere, Biron is 34 and on the back nine of his NHL career. He’s making the most of it with the Blueshirts this season, with a 3-0-0 mark, 0.95 GAA, .963 SP and one shutout.
As a 21-year-old rookie, Markstrom could have been forgiven if he had a rough adjustment in Florida, but he had a save percentage at or above .935 in four of his five games. Panthers GM Dale Tallon sent him to the American League Monday, but that was because veteran Scott Clemmensen was returning from injury, not because of anything Markstrom did.
Ryan Miller is revered in Buffalo for good reason. Yet when he encountered some tough times early in the season, Enroth provided sound relief. He’s a perfect 4-0-0 with a superb 1.41 GAA and .952 SP.
After bouncing between Ottawa and Colorado last season, Elliott has made a home for himself in St. Louis. Starter Jaroslav Halak (2.91 GAA, .879 SP) has been a disaster to this point, but Elliott has been an unexpected joy (5-1-0, 1.72 GAA, .941 SP).
Harding posted career-worsts across the board (3.05 GAA, .905 SP) last season in Minnesota, but the reverse has been true this season. He’s 4-0-1 with a save percentage (.965) that’s tops in the league and the third-lowest GAA (1.18) among all NHL goalies. Oh, and he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. Good timing.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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