NHL Notebook: Could teams run goaltending tandems in the playoffs, Calgary Flames prospect named AHL MVP, and more

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
Slowly but surely, the workhorse role for NHL goaltenders is dwindling away.
Nowadays, we are seeing less and less goaltenders playing the overwhelming majority of games. Look at the Boston Bruins, for example, where surefire Vezina winner Linus Ullmark played in just 49 games this season.
Over at Daily Faceoff, Mike McKenna pondered that question Friday.
Are goalie tandems the wave of the future for NHL teams during the Stanley Cup playoffs?
It’s a great question. And one that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit since Minnesota gave a start to both Filip Gustavsson and Marc-Andre Fleury in the opening two games of the Wild’s first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Dallas Stars.
[Wild head coach Dean] Evason had talked about using the tandem during the playoffs. But I wasn’t really sure how it would play out. Sometimes that type of talk is just lip service. Coaches have previously hinted at doing so, but rarely does it happen.
I posed the same question to a half dozen NHL goalie coaches, along with several current and former netminders. I also asked a few NHL assistant coaches for their take. Are we going to see more tandems in the playoffs in the weeks, months and seasons to come?
The responses were interesting: some had differing opinions on whether a true tandem was capable of winning a Stanley Cup. But there was also a lot of common ground.
“I definitely feel tandem usage will become more and more common,” said one NHL development goalie coach. “I see it more with teams who have less of a gap of talent between their goalies, or teams that are analytic-based.”
It’s a stance I tend to agree with. To me, there are very few teams with true No.1 goaltenders. And the position has become extremely optimized in recent years. There are countless good goalies. But great ones? There might be a half dozen currently in the NHL.
“I think tandems will be used more because there aren’t a lot of elite No. 1 guys anymore,” explained a Western Conference goalie coach. “It’s so much easier when you have a top guy that you can ride (in the Stanley Cup playoffs). This year there might be only five out of 16 teams that wouldn’t switch goalies.”

Wolf named AHL MVP

Calgary Flames goaltending prospect Dustin Wolf has been named the American Hockey League’s MVP.
Selected by the team in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, Wolf has turned into a great prospect. Here’s some of what Flamesnation’s Ryan Pike wrote about the player:
Flash forward to present day, where Wolf has put together a simply fantastic season at the American League level with the Calgary Wranglers. That 2022-23 season was recognized by the league on Friday, as Wolf was named the recipient of the Les Cunningham Award as the league’s most valuable player.
Here’s the awards haul, so far, for Wolf in 2022-23:
  • Co-Most Valuable Player at AHL All-Star Classic
  • First Team All-Star
  • Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award winner for fewest goals against
  • Alege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner as league’s most outstanding goaltender
  • League leader among goaltenders in games played, minutes played, wins, shutouts, goals against average and save percentage
Wolf went 42-10-2 with a 2.09 goals against average and .932 save percentage in 55 appearances. He had, to be very clear, an outstanding season. He also made his NHL debut with the Flames, picking up a victory in the club’s final game of the regular season.
With the Wranglers’ Calder Cup playoff run slated to begin on Wednesday, we’ll see what Wolf has up his sleeve for a post-season encore.

Canucks fire assistant coach

The Vancouver Canucks have fired assistant coach Jason King, the club announced Thursday.
King, who ran the teams powerplay, had remained on the coaching staff through the tenures of Travis Green and Bruce Boudreau. Here’s some of what CanucksArmy’s David Quadrelli wrote about the firing:
At his end of season media availability, head coach Rick Tocchet raved about his coaching staff, and has always been very vocal about how much he likes his staff, now made up of Adam Foote, Mike Yeo, and Sergei Gonchar behind the bench alongside Tocchet.
Tocchet didn’t necessarily hint that a change could be coming, but did say that he and management would evaluate the coaching staff, which Tocchet further explained was standard procedure around the NHL.
One thing the announcement from the Canucks today didn’t do was name King’s replacement behind the Canucks’ bench. And that’s where this gets a bit interesting.
On Wednesday, a report from a Russian website stated that Mike Yeo was leaving the Canucks’ staff and that Ilya Vorobyov would be hired in his place.
On Thursday, a Canucks spokesperson confirmed to CanucksArmy that there will be no replacement coming in for King behind the Canucks’ bench, meaning Tocchet’s assistants will be Foote, Yeo, and Gonchar heading into the 2023-24 season.
It is unclear at this time what the roles will be, or who will take over the power play coaching duties in King’s place.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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