NHL seeing slew of goaltender injuries early in the year
It’s still early in the 2016-17 NHL regular season. Already, though, there’s a laundry list of injuries around the league – particularly, it seems, in net.
(And no, they aren’t from modified gear changes – yet.)
First, there was Jonathan Quick.
The bona fide number one for Los Angeles went down after less than one game played on the year, and now he’s out for anywhere from three months to half the season. Given that it’s a groin issue – and that the netminder opted against surgery to fix the problem – there’s always the off chance he’ll be out even longer.
Other goaltenders quickly followed, though.
There was Mike Smith, out with an indeterminate lower-body injury suffered against the Ottawa Senators that’s knocked him out of an entire six-game road trip (and at least the Arizona Coyotes’ first game back home, set to take place against the Colorado Avalanche this Saturday). Then there was Jeff Zatkoff – now out with a groin issue of his own after getting injured in a Kings practice – Tuukka Rask (out with a lower body issue), Anton Khudobin (three weeks, upper body injury), and Jonathan Bernier (upper body injury, no timetable yet).
(Even Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been a bit rattled; he won’t miss any time for his missing front teeth, but he joins the list of netminders who have found themselves needing medical attention mid-game this year with his horrifying dental accident Tuesday night).
The result of all this, of course, is that there are now four teams – the Los Angeles Kings, the Boston Bruins, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Arizona Coyotes – who are running with AHL call-ups in the crease. Two of those teams, Los Angeles and Boston, are only running with AHL call-ups.
What does this mean for the season?
For Boston, Los Angeles, and Arizona, this could drastically affect their years.
Boston has two young call-ups manning the net for the Atlantic Division club in Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre. The two have less than five full games of experience between them, and neither boast a save percentage above .900 at the NHL level yet. Small sample size, but concerning – particularly for a team with a notoriously weak defensive corps.
Los Angeles has the defense to make up for their own loss, but it’s hard to tell exactly how much damage their minor league netminders can do. Peter Budaj, their interim starter, is getting older and his active style may no longer suit his timing – or the league as it is now. Jack Campbell is a reclamation project in serious need of some redevelopment and TLC, and recently-signed Anders Lindback may need as much help as Campbell to regain his confidence from sharp past stints with the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres.
Arizona is reliant on Louis Domingue to replicate his success as an interim starter last year, and he’s struggling to meet those expectations. Then there’s Anaheim, who have a strong starter in John Gibson – but no evidence yet that he’s able to play well given heavy starts and frequent appearances at the NHL level. He’ll have to be excellent, as the recalled Dustin Tokarski has struggled in recent seasons with consistent NHL play. There are plenty of question marks for both of the Pacific Division franchises, even with only one netminder down of their initial two.
This may affect the standings – particularly in the Pacific Division – and it may do nothing at all. With so many injuries in net to start out the year, though, healthy franchises may want to start knocking on wood every opportunity they get.