Which starting goalie is closest to losing his grip on his number one status?
Brian Rosenbaum: For me, the answer is Ondrej Pavelec. The Czech netminder has been better this campaign than in season's past, but he is still so inconsistent. He allowed four goals in a 6-3 loss this past Thursday night, was pulled Tuesday night after allowing four goals on 12 shots and is currently mired in a three-game losing skid. Michael Hutchinson, on the other hand, sports a 4-1-1 record with a 2.36 GAA and a .938 SP, and seems to get better play out of his teammates for whatever reason. Hutch didn't play much better than Pavelec Saturday night but it is only a mattter of time before he asserts himself and takes over as the Jet's number one.
Michael Finewax: It's already happened in Toronto where James Reimer has taken over the number one job from Jonathan Bernier. Bernier came into the season as the undisputed number one netminder with the Maple Leafs but a poor start and then an injury gave Reimer his chance and he has run with it. Reimer is 4-2-3 with a 2.33 GAA and a .920 save percentage while Bernier has floundered with an 0-6-1 mark to go with a 3.02 GAA and a .899 save percentage. All these stats are as of going into action on Saturday.
Ryan Dadoun: I don't know if he's the closest, but there's a really interesting situation going on in Colorado. Semyon Varlamov still has four seasons left with a $5.9 million cap hit (including this one), so the Avalanche have an obvious reason to want him to be their number one goaltender, but so far Reto Berra has clearly out played him. Berra has a 1.50 GAA and .953 save percentage in eight games while Varlamov (who currently has a groin injury) has a 3.26 GAA and .890 save percentage in 10 contests. What makes the Avalanche's situation unique though is that they have a third goaltender that's been promised a roster spot for the 2016-17 campaign in Calvin Pickard. So what will the Avs do if Berra continues to have this strong of a season?
Corey Abbott: I think Berra is the better option right now, but Varlamov will get his fair share of opportunities to get his number one job back after he returns from injury. I think Petr Mrazek is an eyelash away from overtaking Jimmy Howard. That would also create an interesting situation due to contracts because Howard still has three years left on his deal after the 2015-16 season, while Mrazek is a restricted free agent this summer. Mrazek has one more start than Howard, a winning record and the better peripherals. He was also the goaltender of choice for the Red Wings last year in the playoffs. Still, unless Howard is traded I don't envision a scenario where they don't share starts because Howard hasn't struggled this season. Of course that could change, but if I could own one goalie on Detroit I would go with Mrazek.
Brian Rosenbaum: I may be going out on a limb here, but how about a shift in Vancouver? I know Ryan Miller is an established NHL goalie and he is earning $6 million per season through 2016-17, but he's been on a very cold streak for five games now going 0-4-1, and hasn't allowed less than three goals in a game since November 2nd. Jacob Markstrom played well in his first game of the season stopping 42 of 43 shots in a 5-3 win over Columbus on November 10th and seems to be finally over hamstring problems that sidelined him. Can Markstrom, the goalie of tomorrow, be the goalie of today? Another bad game or two from Miller and I think he can.
Michael Finewax: The other place where the goaltending situation is up in the air is in Edmonton. Cam Talbot was acquired in the off season from the Rangers and so many pundits thought the Oilers netminding problems were solved but that has not been the case. Anders Nilsson has outplayed Talbot and could take over as the starter. Always try to handcuff your goalies first because of injuries and secondly because of lack of performance.
Corey Abbott: Philadelphia is facing a similar situation where the backup (Michal Neuvirth) has outperformed the number one (Steve Mason). The Flyers have maintained that Mason is the top option, but Neuvirth's great play has created opportunities for him to see more action and I wouldn't be surprised if they split games fairly evenly. It doesn't help that their teammates haven't played very well in front of them. Neuvirth hasn't posted a victory this season that wasn't a shutout because he hasn't received much support. Mason has been under siege as well, but Neuvirth has much better statistics which is something I wasn't expecting going into the season.
Ryan Dadoun: Of those three (Vancouver, Edmonton, and Philadelphia), I feel like Edmonton's situation is the most up in the air. The Oilers don't have (or shouldn't have) any particular level of loyalty to either goaltender, whereas the Flyers and the Canucks have a bias based on the contrasts they committed to. Perhaps that's less true with the Canucks as Miller is, at best, the short-term solution in goal, but they traded Eddie Lack over Miller, so that says something about their opinion of the veteran. Here's one more situation I want to throw out there; Calgary's. Jonas Hiller is hurt right now, but he was struggling before that. Of course, Karri Ramo hasn't fared much better. There's an opportunity there for either one of them to run away with the starting job, but perhaps neither will end up taking it.