The NHL didn’t exactly have goalie tandems last season. It was more like gaggles of goaltenders.
Due to COVID-19 absences, injuries and ineffectiveness, a record 119 goalies appeared in 2021-22 regular-season games, from Akira Schmid to Zach Fucale. As a result, NHL scoring numbers climbed to their highest levels in nearly 30 years.
The 2022-23 NHL regular season should offer a bit more normalcy as far as who is minding the net for teams. But if we know anything about goalies, what looks one way on paper can look a lot different on the ice.
Here are the goalie tandem rankings for this season. They were formulated through discussions with a variety of goalie experts — coaches, analytics gurus, former players — as well as through stats from sites like Evolving Hockey, Money Puck and Hockey Reference. They also incorporate information from Clear Sight Analytics, former NHL goalie Stephen Valiquette’s analytics firm.
Keep in mind that these are a combination of past performance and projections for the 2022-23 NHL season.
The Rangers have the NHL’s best goalie tandem because they have the NHL’s best goalie. Shesterkin’s .935 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average in 53 appearances led the NHL. His 34.1 goals saved above expected led the NHL, per Money Puck. So did his 42.46 goals saved above average, according to Evolving Hockey.
Traditional stats, fancy stats, eye test, sniff test … Shesterkin put together one of the most dominant seasons we’ve seen from a goaltender in recent memory, and then followed it with a .929 save percentage in leading the Rangers to the Eastern Conference finals. His Vezina Trophy was perfunctory at that point. The only thing Shesterkin didn’t have was a high work rate, although his health thankfully wasn’t a factor in that, as many had expected before the season.
The Rangers traded Alexandar Georgiev to the Avalanche and added Halak as their new backup. Entering his 17th NHL season, Halak understands the assignment better than most. He’ll likely see more action than his 14 starts last season. He’s going to have to be better than he was in Vancouver, when he posted a negative-1.11 goals saved above average. Does the 2019-20 version of Halak still lurk in those pads somewhere? The Rangers could use him.
This is, admittedly, a lopsided tandem. Halak is ordinary. That they rank first in the NHL is a tribute to just how extraordinary Shesterkin is and should continue to be in 2022-23.
Sorokin was the real deal last season, looking every bit the franchise goalie the Islanders expect from him. Evolving Hockey had him at 28.97 goals saved above average last season, while adding seven wins to the team in the standings. The 27-year-old delivered on the promise of his rookie season in a big way.
The surprise last season was that his teammate Varlamov didn’t play up to his own standards. The 34-year-old saw his save percentage tumble from .929 to .911. His metrics across the board were barely above replacement level. If he returns to form, this still can be the second-best tandem in the NHL — provided new coach Lane Lambert’s system remains as goalie friendly as his mentor Barry Trotz’s was. If Varlamov struggles again, the Islanders still have a Vezina candidate in Sorokin.
Vasilevskiy came within two victories of leading his team to three straight Stanley Cup championships. That’s the stuff of legend. The 28-year-old netminder had led the NHL in wins for five straight seasons, and he’s the reason the Lightning have a chance to win another Cup this season.
Vasilevskiy’s 28.4 goals saved above expected in 2021-22 ranked him second in the NHL, per Money Puck. He added 5.2 wins to the Lightning himself. The Big Cat is the stabilizing force for Jon Cooper’s team in the regular season and a dominant one in the postseason.
Elliott is back as the spot-starter for Tampa Bay. He started 17 games last season and provided results that were hovering around replacement level. He’s fine. Vasilevskiy is much better than fine. Hence, the Lightning rank third.
The Hurricanes decided to rip up their goalie roster and start over before the 2021-22 campaign. The result saw them finish third overall in team save percentage (.913) while Andersen put up absolutely stellar numbers before an injury capped his season at 52 games. He was third in the NHL with 27.8 goals saved above average according to Money Puck, while he added 6.8 wins to the Hurricanes according to Evolving Hockey.
As he does seemingly every season, Raanta missed some time for Carolina, but made 28 appearances. It was his postseason that turned heads, as Raanta led the Hurricanes to a first-round win over the Bruins. The jury is still out if this duo can get the Hurricanes over the championship hump, but they’ll very much get them to the hump if they’re healthy.
No team caused a larger edit of our rankings than the Canucks did. Our initial pass had them middle of the pack. Nearly every goalie expert we spoke with put Demko and Martin as one of the most effective duos in the NHL this season. Clear Sight Analytics had them second overall in its preseason ranking.
Demko established himself as one of the NHL’s most hardworking goalies with 64 appearances. He had a .915 save percentage and 10.5 goals saved above expected, per Money Puck. His numbers would have been even better had he not tried to soldier through an injury late in the season, giving up 13 goals in his last three starts.
Is Martin, who posted a .950 save percentage in six games last season, that much of an upgrade over Halak as the backup? Said one goalie expert: “Martin’s an unknown and last year was a tiny sample, but his numbers were still light years ahead of some of the other backups around the NHL.”
The Capitals identified a problem and came up with a solution. The problem: Washington had a team save percentage of .898, which was the worst for any Stanley Cup Playoffs qualifier. The solution: They jettisoned both of their goalies from last season and handed Kuemper a five-year free-agent contract after he led the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup.
Problem solved? Clear Sight Analytics had them fifth in preseason rankings.
“Kuemper was s good regular goalie season and Lindgren could be looked back at as the best signing of offseason,” one goalie expert said, “as long as coach Peter Laviolette keeps their attention on defense for another season.”
Another goalie expert was less enthusiastic. “Kuemper got the job done last year in Colorado and earned the deal he got in Washington. Lindgren had a great year last in AHL and small sample in St. Louis. Can they both repeat that this year in a new place? My gut says no, so I’d put them more middle of the pack. We will see.”
Coach Darryl Sutter’s system has produced some stellar goaltending performances through the years, and Markstrom was the latest beneficiary as the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy last season. He had a .922 save percentage with an NHL-best nine shutouts in 63 games. While his underlying numbers were strong, they weren’t quite at the level of his traditional stats: Markstrom was 12th in the NHL in goals saved above expected (10.4) according to Money Puck.
The less said about the postseason, the better for Markstrom, who melted down into a .901 netminder during the Battle of Alberta against Edmonton.
Vladar was a sub-replacement goalie last season who started in 23 games. His greatest virtue might be his $750,000 salary, especially when the Flames have $6 million committed to Markstrom. AHL goalie of the year Dustin Wolf is waiting in the wings.
Ullmark and Swayman began last season waiting for Tuukka Rask to return from surgery and take their ice time. But that comeback only lasted four games before Rask called it a career. It’s their crease now.
Both goalies played above expected last season, sharing the workload under Bruce Cassidy to the point where they each started exactly 39 games. New coach Jim Montgomery might not split that hair the same way, but his two seasons in Dallas showed his system can be beneficial to his goalies. The Stars led the NHL in goals-against average while Monty was behind the bench.
Ullmark was the better of the two goalies last season, playing to a .917 save percentage for the second straight campaign. Swayman couldn’t quite live up to the promise of his 10-game showcase as a rookie, but the 23-year-old played well enough: .914 save percentage and .615 quality starts percentage.
As a tandem, they just work. Swayman said at the NHL Player Media Tour that they have a tight bond. “To know that we go through the same things every day and that we’re gonna support each other, that was special,” he said.
Saros finished third for the Vezina Trophy last season; considering the competition, that was about right. His real reward was getting the Predators over the hump and into the playoffs — even if his best efforts came midseason, as he went 20-9-3 from November through January. No one played more minutes (3,932) than Saros. According to Hockey Reference, he led the NHL in points contributed to his team in the standings (14.0). He is an elite goaltender in an era lacking both of those attributes.
Do the Predators see something in Kevin Lankinen that the analytics don’t? His rookie season of 2020-21 saw him play well for a stretch before things went south in a big way, as he ended up with minus-14.3 goals saved above expected for Chicago. Last season was even more disastrous: According to Money Puck, he had a negative-28.6 goals saved above expected, which was second worst in the league.
As good as Saros is, Lankinen isn’t. But as one goalie expert put it: “Lankinen being so bad compared to Saros doesn’t matter when he’ll only play 18 games.” Keep in mind that 20-year-old goalie phenom Yaroslav Askarov is percolating in the AHL.
The Penguins put their faith in Jarry after his performance arguably cost them a playoff series against the Islanders, and that faith was rewarded with a brilliant season. In 58 games, Jarry had 28.7 goals saved above average and added 5.1 wins to the Penguins, playing to an MVP level during their many lineup absences. He finished seventh for the Vezina Trophy.
DeSmith was infamously injured in double-OT of Game 1 against the Rangers, leading to the brief Legend of Louis Domingue in the playoffs. He’s a competent backup coming off a slightly below replacement season for the Penguins, although DeSmith really recaptured his form in the last 12 games of the season. A solid foundation for Pittsburgh.
Bobrovsky did the seemingly impossible last season, which was make people briefly believe he was playing up to the standards of his salary cap hit. His 23.4 goals saved above expected was fourth best in the NHL according to Money Puck. It was the first time in three years that he played at an above replacement clip, and he had his best quality starts percentage (.623) since the last season he won the Vezina (2017).
The key here is Knight, who was a rookie flop before returning to the AHL and then playing lights-out in the last 14 games of the regular season, going 10-3-1. He’s going to show that you can get a second chance to make a first impression.
Two caveats to all of this. There were two internal models we saw that had both Bobrovsky and Knight actually playing below expected last season. Second, new coach Paul Maurice has a complicated history with goalies, which has led some to think about whether he actually makes them worse.
The hope for Detroit here is that Nedeljkovic is better than he showed for most of last season and that Husso is exactly who he seemed to be in a breakout campaign with the St. Louis Blues. Ned’s save percentage dropped .031 points from his Calder finalist season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He was down analytically across the board too, including a negative-6.9 goals saved above expected.
Husso was on the opposite end of that spectrum: 25-7-6 with a .919 save percentage, at one point usurping Jordan Binnington as the Blues’ top netminder. Money Puck had him at 13.5 goals saved above expected, good for ninth in the League. The Red Wings are slowly improving the quality of their roster as their young prospects mature. The goalies will benefit from that; and if Husso proves to be the real deal, the Red Wings might even be a contender this season. Clear Sight Analytics has them sixth overall in preseason rankings.
This tandem was shaken up before the regular season, as Talbot will miss the first five to seven weeks with an upper-body injury. That necessitated a waiver claim for Hellberg, the 31-year-old Seattle Kraken goalie who has four NHL appearances to go with four seasons in the KHL.
The Senators were able to acquire Talbot from the Wild after Minnesota recommitted to Marc-Andre Fleury, leaving Talbot upset about this playing time and GM Bill Guerin eager to end any drama by trading him. While Talbot racked up 32 wins in 49 games last season, his underlying numbers were replacement level.
Hence, the Senators are ranked here not because of Talbot’s poor analytics but because of Forsberg’s sterling fancy stats. The 29-year-old had 25.1 goals saved above average and added 4.4 wins to Ottawa in 46 games last season, per Evolving Hockey. If he can repeat that feat and Talbot, when healthy, gives them a little more than Filip Gustavsson and Matt Murray did last season, the Sens will get the goaltending they need behind an improved roster of skaters.
This is one of the most difficult tandems to predict. Oettinger’s postseason wizardry in the Stars’ first-round loss to the Calgary Flames is seared into the minds of hockey fans, making us forget a regular season in which he had 1.4 goals saved above expected for 22nd in the league, per Money Puck. His growth as a goalie from that postseason experience will determine how far up the charts this group can climb — is a .914 save percentage his ceiling or is there another gear the 23-year-old can shift into?
Wedgewood was an underrated gem for the Coyotes, with 9.1 goals saved above average and adding over a win and a half to the team. He played well in the eight appearances he had for the Stars after they acquired him and will be a solid pairing with “The Otter.”
Former playoff hero Anton Khudobin, now 36, is waiting around for either an injury or a trade.
Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland told ESPN that their acquisition of Georgiev from the Rangers was akin to their acquisition of Philipp Grubauer from the Capitals a couple of seasons ago.
“We think this is a guy with good talent that needs an opportunity to see if he can run with the ball,” MacFarland said. “I think that that narrative still has to be written. He’s gonna be given every opportunity to see what he can do. But you gotta get it done on the ice.”
Indeed you do. The Avalanche have high hopes for Georgiev, finally leaving the shadow of both Igor Shesterkin and Henrik Lundqvist before him. If he fumbles that ball, they have Francouz there for the recovery. Please recall his 6-0-0 playoff record last spring to help Colorado to the Stanley Cup.
Said one goaltending expert: “I’ve always liked Francouz. Seems comfortable when healthy. I’m bullish on this tandem. I’d have them higher. They would be top 10-12 for me.”
Some things were status quo for Connor Hellebuyck last season. He led the NHL in shots faced and saves for the fourth straight season, playing in 66 games for the Jets. Some things were a little strange for the 29-year-old goalie, as his .910 save percentage was his lowest since 2016-17 and his goals saved above average slipped a bit, relative to his standards. Hellebuyck is still elite, having added an average of 5.4 wins per season to the Jets over the last five years.
The problem is that he’s paired with David Rittich, who has been a below replacement backup for the last two seasons and a huge downgrade from Eric Comrie‘s performance last season. The days of “Big Save Dave” seem like a century ago. But both goalies should benefit from the coaching change to Rick Bowness from whatever Dave Lowry was doing for most of last season, as the Jets finished 26th in expected goals against in front of their goalies.
Perhaps the NHL’s most sneaky good tandem.
The Wild traded Kähkönen to San Jose while acquiring Fleury at the deadline, and he continued a bounce-back season that saw him post 5.2 goals saved above expected, 17th in the NHL per Money Puck. Reimer put together his typically competent, under-the-radar season with 6.69 goals saved above average, adding 3.6 wins to the Sharks per Evolving Hockey.
New coach David Quinn has a rather solid tandem on which to rely, whose success depends on Kähkönen’s continued upward trajectory.
The skepticism we found regarding Fleury and the Wild goaltending was a little disconcerting for a team that looks to be a contender in the Western Conference. Clear Sight Analytics has them ranked 21st. One goalie expert who noted Cam Talbot’s poor underlying numbers said that “Fleury was worse” and that the Wild simply “outscored their goaltending.”
That said, Fleury is one season removed from taking home the Vezina Trophy. Last season was an emotional one for a heart-on-his-sleeve guy, from the dramatic end of his time in Vegas to moving his family to Chicago to the trade to Minnesota. His new contract with the Wild offers a little peace of mind, and maybe with it a return to form for a goalie that was barely above replacement last season.
Gustavsson is a downgrade from Talbot, but he’s just keeping the bench warm until top prospect Jesper Wallstedt takes it.
GM Tom Fitzgerald has attempted to find a partner for Blackwood for two seasons. Corey Crawford opted for retirement in 2020. Bernier played 10 games before he needed hip surgery last season. Instead, they used as many goalies (7) as there are current official members of The E-Street Band, to use New Jersey math.
Now it’s Vanecek, the former Capitals goalie, who’ll try and provide the stability Blackwood needs so the 25-year-old goalie can relocate his once promising form.
Said one goaltending expert: “I still believe in Blackwood. Great size and presence in net. Hopefully he’s 100% healthy and has Vanecek who can win some games and give quality starts for this Devils team.”
That expert had the Devils’ tandem around No. 15, although Clear Sight Analytics rated them 25th.
Merzlikins jumped to a career-high 59 games last season, and that experience is going to serve him well. The talented Tarasov is waiting for his shot, but the Jackets obviously felt he needed a little more time on the vine — why else bring back Korpisalo, who was analytically one of the worst goalies in the league last season? Now, if he can bounce back, this ranking will be too low.
“This is not a playoff team yet, but I think if Korpisalo returns to good health that this could be a solid tandem,” one goaltending insider said. “It’s a big ‘if,’ but I’m also bullish on this tandem. If it lines up nicely then I feel they are a top-15 tandem.”
The Jordan Binnington conjecture in the goaltending community continues.
Evolving Hockey and Hockey Reference had him in the negative as far as goals saved above average. Clear Sight Analytics, whose models have always favored Binnington, had him at plus-7 GSAA last season. He had a .901 save percentage in 37 regular-season games with the Blues before reclaiming his status as a clutch postseason goalie with a .949 save percentage in six games. Could St. Louis have defeated the Avalanche with a healthy Binnington? We’ll never know.
Greiss arrives after a down season in Detroit, and many of the insiders we spoke with believe this is a notable downgrade from Ville Husso.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how Matt Murray fares in Toronto and how Campbell does behind Edmonton’s team defense. Curiously, the goaltending improved under coach Jay Woodcroft, but the overall team defense didn’t. Campbell didn’t have the season in 2021-22 that he had in the all-Canada Northern Division in 2020-21, which was his breakout campaign. But he was solidly above replacement across the board during his time in Toronto.
The wild card here is Skinner. Most internal models had him playing at below expected levels in 13 appearances last season, but he’s been strong in the preseason. After the Mike Smith rollercoaster, the bar is set at stability and consistency. This tandem can clear that.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but there are a variety of opinions about the relative quality of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Some of the goalie insiders we spoke with believe the Murray and Samsonov duo is going to be among the worst in the league. Real Clear Analytics has them ranked 27th heading into this season, based on last season’s performances.
Others look at what Murray did with the Senators, look at the Toronto defense and believe we could see a comeback season for the former Stanley Cup winner: One model shows his performance translating to a .920 save percentage with the Leafs. Samsonov, however, is the trickier call. One insider called him “a project” despite three seasons with the Capitals. The Leafs are going to boom-or-bust with this goaltending.
After losing Marc-Andre Fleury, the Knights dropped to seventh in last season’s goalie tandem rankings. After losing Robin Lehner to a season-ending hip surgery this offseason, Vegas falls all the way to No. 24.
But there are reasons for optimism here. Clear Sight Analytics has them 18th overall. Thompson’s 19-game sample last season put him in the top 10 in adjusted save percentage. The coaching change should help, too, as Peter DeBoer’s system is over-reliant on goaltending while Bruce Cassidy’s work in Boston was historically more goalie-friendly.
The Knights didn’t seek a big-name solution after Lehner’s injury. Part of that was the salary cap ceiling against which they’re bumping, and part of that was a legit confidence in what they had on the roster. It might be rewarded.
Those vintage Jonathan Quick moments we witnessed last season — like that Game 4 shutout and a brilliant Game 7 effort against Edmonton in the playoffs — overshadow the reality of the Kings’ goaltending, which is that it’s not all that consistent or good.
Some of the public analytics on Quick were eye-opening, like Money Puck’s 17.8 goals saved above expected. But internal goalie analytics models had Quick at or below expected. He turns 37 in January and even the most athletic goalie can’t stop Father Time.
The real issue with the Kings is Petersen, who responded to a spiffy new contract he received last preseason with a disastrous 2021-22 campaign (.895 save percentage, below-replacement metrics). This tandem rates higher if he bounces back. If he doesn’t … does GM Rob Blake still have the receipt for that purchase?
The Sabres already tried to do the “sign the backup with the solid numbers and see if he can handle a larger role” thing, and it resulted in three below-replacement-level seasons from Carter Hutton. Comrie, 27, is coming off an outstanding season in Winnipeg where his adjusted numbers were better than those for Connor Hellebuyck.
Anderson, 41, continued a long-standing Sabres tradition of starting out the season incredibly well (.939 save percentage in October) before finishing up at below-replacement levels. The future is with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi, and it’s a bright one at that.
Stolarz might be one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL goaltending landscape, with a better goals-saved above average per 60 minutes and expected goals against than Gibson.
But Gibson’s still the guy in Anaheim, even if he hasn’t been all-caps JOHN GIBSON for the last three seasons, posting a 5-on-5 save percentage of .912 in that span. Clear Sight Analytics has this tandem ranked 29th overall.
We’ll leave Carey Price out of this analysis given his uncertain status, except to note he remains signed through 2025-26.
Allen earned a new two-year contract with two stabilizing seasons for the Canadiens, but the 32-year-old is at his best as a tandem goalie, and his dance partners here aren’t ready to tango at an NHL level.
Hart quietly had a bounce-back season for Philadelphia after losing his way during the pandemic years. His minus-2.23 goals saved above average wasn’t exactly the stuff of Vezina Trophies, but compared to 2020-21 (minus-22.3) it was practically Hasek-like.
The big question: Can John Tortorella, whose system is quite goalie-friendly, be the one to get Hart back on that “franchise goalie” path?
Losing Ivan Fedotov hurts this group, as the prospect was detained in Russia during the offseason and sent to serve in the military for one year. Neither Grosenick nor Sandström fill that role as sufficiently.
Like the Coyotes, the last thing the Blackhawks want is goaltending that’s going to steal games for them during a season when draft lottery position is paramount.
As is tradition, Mrazek will steal a few during a hot streak before his inevitable injury. Stalock is a great story, as he’s waging an NHL comeback after not playing since Nov. 2020 due to a COVID-related myocarditis diagnosis. Clear Sight Analytics has them slightly higher than this, at No. 28.
The most asked question around the Kraken last season: What would their standings point total have been had they received a scintilla of competent goaltending last season?
Grubauer, whom they signed to a massive six-year free-agent deal, and Driedger were supposed to be the foundation for a successful inaugural season. Instead, they subverted it, combining for a negative-35.3 goals saved above expected.
The outlook hasn’t improved. Clear Sight Analytics had Seattle dead last in its 2022-23 goalie tandem projections, with former Flyers goalie Martin Jones replacing Driedger, who is out with a torn ACL in his right knee. Said one goaltending expert: “Grubauer has only been good on great defensive teams, and they are not that.” This could end up being uglier than Buoy.
The good news for the Coyotes is that their goaltending won’t thwart the “Tank Hard for Bedard” plan they’ve seemingly implemented this season.
Vejmelka had a minus-23.2 goals saved above expected last season. After missing out on Charlie Lindgren as a free agent, it looked like the Coyotes might have Prosvetov, who needs to spend another full season in the AHL, and Jon Gillies as their backups. But GM Bill Armstrong was ready for the waiver wire to provide him another option and claimed Johansson from the Colorado Avalanche. He had a negative-13 goals saved above average in just 11 games last season.
The Sun Devils men’s team might have the best goaltending at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena this season.