2008 Has Been Year of the “Backup”

Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the Pittsburgh net tonight for the first time since injuring his groin a month ago, just one of many highly-paid #1 goalies who have missed significant playing time this season therefore thrusting his respective backup into a starting (and sometimes “starring”) role.  What’s significant about that?  Well for starters, never before has there been such a huge disparity between the salaries of A-level goalies vs. everyone else.   Until this past week Danny Saborin has kept the Penguins in each of their games compiling a 6-6-1 record with a .911 SV%.  Are those the numbers of a number one?  Not really, but the Pens have remained within striking distance of the Rangers and Flyers which is exactly what teams should expect from backups, i.e. give them a chance to win when the number one is out.  For 1/10th the cost ($512k vs. $5M for Fleury) Saborin did his job.  Here’s a look at some of the other backups finding themselves with a chance to play in the limelight this seaon.

Tim Thomas shooting for the number one position.

Tim Thomas shooting for the number one position.

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Nabokov On His Way To Quebec City

For those of us in NHL playoff cities the World Championships have been a bit of an after-thought (or even a non-existent thought). While national teams routinely pick up a few late additions from NHL teams eliminated in the first round it’s extremely rare to add a player eliminated in the second round. Due to the late start of the tournament this year, the Sharks loss to Dallas in game six and the fact that Quebec doesn’t require a trans-Atlantic flight Evengeni Nabokov will be pulling on the Russian jersey in a couple days.

Alexander Eremenko, Russia’s starter so far, injured his right ACL on Sunday in Russia’s 5-4 win over the Czechs. Backup Mikhail Biryukov played in a 4-1 win over Denmark today but because Russia only brought two keepers (Canada named three at the beginning of the tournament) they are allowed to add an emergency replacement for Eremenko.

I love watching gloves saves like this when Nabokov is wearing the Sharks’ teal but I’m not looking forward to what he’s going to do to Team Canada when they inevitably hook up in the medal round. Follow the IIHF results here and be sure to check out great shots of the action from each game here.

Lord Stanley resides in California… is the Vezina Next?

Ask any NHL writer or hockey fan “who is the best goalie?” and for the last few years the overwhelming answer was always the same: Martin Brodeur. Yes, guys like Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco were mentioned in the same breath but in the end it has been Brodeur winning the Vezina three of the last four years. One goalie who hasn’t really been mentioned at all in that debate (but should have been) is now making his strongest case yet: San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov.

evgeni_nabokov.jpg

Tenders Lounge is located in San Francisco, one hour north of the Shark Tank, so we’re a little biased towards our local goalie but Nabby’s numbers look good from anywhere. Even from New Jersey. Nabokov leads the league in wins with 46 and would have a chance at tying Brodeur’s record for wins in a season (48) but Sharks coach Doug Wilson has decided to play Brian Boucher in one of the Sharks’ last two games (read more about that decision here). Continue reading

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