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August 14, 2011
The Blue Line
Top 10 Best Backup Goaltenders

by Matthew Coller

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Putting a value on a backup goaltender can be difficult because different teams need backups for different reasons. Some teams need 15 games while others need 25 games from their backup. Some clubs need a top tier backup in the case of injury to the starter, while some need a veteran presence to guide a young netminder. Furthermore, some teams have backups so good that they could fetch a hefty return at the trade deadline. To determine the best backup goaltenders, we look at not only the numbers but the goalie's role.

As in our peek at the 10 worst backup goaltenders in the NHL , we look at: Goals Versus Threshold, Quality Start Percentage and the backup's projected use.

Best backup goaltenders

10. Panthers – Jose Theodore: 2.5 GVT | 55.2 QS%

Jose Theodore's presence on this list is completely dependent on prospect Jacob Markstrom being the starting goalie for the Panthers in the short to medium term. If Theodore ends up the starter and Scott Clemmensen the backup, then well, it's going to be an ugly year in net for the Panthers. If Markstrom starts, Theodore can be relied upon to keep the young goalie rested and help him adjust to the NHL.

9. Devils – Johan Hedberg: 3.8 GVT | 66.7 QS%

Back in the day, you didn't have to remember the Devils even had a backup; Martin Brodeur was good for 70 or more games. Now, the future Hall of Famer will need more rest and Johan Hedberg will have to step up at times. Of course, you pay to see Brodeur, but Hedberg will still give the Devils a chance to win any time he is between the pipes.

8. Sabres – Jhonas Enroth: 0.7 GVT | 53.8 QS%

Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff is famous for pushing superstar goalie Ryan Miller to the brink, expecting around 70 games from him every year. But with Jhonas Enroth's solid performances toward the end of the season, Miller might be seeing a few more days off. The rookie played in several highly important conference games for the Sabres in 2010-11 while Miller was injured at the end of the season and performed admirably. His GVT and QSP were not overwhelming, but his value lies in the Sabres finally having enough confidence in their backup to rest the franchise goalie.

7. Predators – Anders Lindback: 3.2 GVT | 66.7 QS%

As good as Pekka Rinne is, Predators fans can be confident with their defense and playing style that when Rinne doesn't play, their team still has a good chance to win. Anders Lindback will likely play more than 20 games this season and based on last year's performance (.915 save percentage), he has to be considered one of the more reliable backups in the NHL.

6. Penguins – Brent Johnson: 8.6 GVT | 70 QS%

Brent Johnson was one of the few backup netminders who, based on last year's numbers (13-5-2, .922 save percentage), could start for many NHL teams. Marc-Andre Fleury is the franchise goalie in Pittsburgh, so he will still play 60 games, but for those other 20, Penguins fans can count on Johnson. It doesn't seem likely that they will deal Johnson, but other teams should inquire. And if they need someone to double as a fighter, he can do that too.

5. Flyers – Sergi Bobrovsky: 8.7 GVT | 65.4 QS%

You would think that contracts shouldn't play a role in how much rest a goaltender receives, but it's nearly impossible to think the Flyers are going to play Ilya Bryzgalov any fewer than 65 games. Sergei Bobvrosky could be much higher on this list, but like the Ranger's Martin Biron he won't play enough to tip the scales. And like the Canucks' Cory Schneider, his team is going for the Stanley Cup, so it is unlikely they'll dump an asset like Bobrovsky.

4. Rangers – Martin Biron: 5.7 GVT | 73.3 QS%

It's hard to believe that Marty Biron is a backup goaltender. It seems he could start on several teams and with a goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist playing 70-plus games, the Rangers might be best suited trading Biron to a Western Conference team. Or, they could scale back their star and not lose much. Either way, the Rangers are in one of the better positions concerning backup netminder.

3. Capitals – Michal Neuvirth: 7.6 GVT | 52.3 QS%

As a starter, Michal Neuvrith was manageable. As a backup to Tomas Vokoun, he should be excellent. And he will see a lot of playing time. Vokoun's highest games played total within the past three seasons is 63. The Capitals can have confidence that when their new star needs a rest, they won't lose much putting in Neuvirth.

2. Bruins – Tuukka Rask: 5.3 GVT | 59.3 QS%

Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas traded places last season as far as performance goes. Rask had a "down year" but still managed to be an above average backup netminder. With the Bruins' defense, they shouldn't feel any discomfort about Rask filling Thomas' shoes 25 to 30 times in 2011-12.

1. Canucks – Cory Schneider: 10.6 GVT | 72.7 QS%

This one's simple: Cory Schneider is the best backup in the NHL and deserves to play 60-plus games somewhere else. Vancouver could receive major return for a goalie of his caliber. But they may prefer to rest Roberto Loungo more during the regular season and not miss a beat.

Matthew Coller is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Matthew by clicking here or click here to see Matthew's other articles.

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