The play of the Panthers’ goaltenders this season is not THE reason for the teams 6-9-5 record but it is A reason, and a very big reason at that. All the numbers bear out the opinion that the Panthers have had terrible goalie play this season. The Florida Panthers rank last in the NHL in goals allowed per game allowing 3.60 per game, but only ranks 24th in shots allowed per game with 31.3.
Individually the Panthers goalies do not look any better. Jose Theodore ranks 39th in the NHL in GAA (3.30) and 35th in SV% (.892). Scott Clemmensen ranks 42nd in GAA (3.98) and 41st in SV% (.865). Clemmensen’s ranks are last and second to last in GAA and SV% respectively out of qualifying NHL goaltenders.
Lets compare Florida’s keepers to some other to see what were dealing with. Chicago Blackhawk Corey Crawford leads the NHL in GAA with 1.46 while ex-Panther Craig Anderson is second with a 1.49 GAA for the Senators. These two flip-flop in SV% with Anderson in the top spot (.952) followed by Crawford (.943).
It doesn’t take a genius realize the Panthers do not have top NHL goaltenders so lets look at some average goaltenders. With a GAA of 2.69, the Flyers’ Ilya Bryzgalov ranks 21st out of 42 goalies. Thats .61 goals per game better than Theo and 1.29 better than Clemmensen. Sergei Bobrovskyof the Columbus Blue Jackets is not an elite goalie by any measure but his GAA 2.90 and SV% of .899 are far better than Theo and Clemmer.
So yes the Panthers goalies have not played well this year, but what can the team do about it? As far as I can tell, the team has two options: A) ride out the storm and hope their current duo improves as the season goes on or B) call up Jacob Markstrom for good and trade either Theodore or Clemmensen. I thought the team was going in the direction of option B when Markstrom was called up last week to face the Penguins and the Bruins. Markstrom played well in those two games stopping 71 of 77 shots faced for a SV% of .915 and a GAA of 3.05. Despite losing in both of his starts, Markstrom looked good and I think he looked like an NHL ready goaltender.
Markstrom was sent down following Florida’s 4-1 loss to Boston on Sunday making it seem like the Panthers are going to try to win with the goalies they have in Theodore and Clemmensen. In the two games following Markstrom being sent down, the Panthers have been forced to make a goalie change mid-game. Theodore was pulled after allowing four goals on 19 shots in two periods Tuesday against the Penguins and Clemmensen was pulled in the first period of last nights 4-3 SO loss to the Sabres after allowing three goals on ten shots.
I do not necessarily think the Panthers made the wrong move sending Markstrom back to the San Antonio Rampage. The 23 year old Swede is only in his third year playing in the American professional leagues. If the organization feels he needs more seasoning in the minors than so be it. Markstrom is pegged as the goalie of the future for the Panthers and it is clear that the future is not quite here yet. It would be a shame to rush Markstrom along to play for a team that quite frankly does not look like a playoff team no matter who is between the pipes.
That being said, it is painful to watch Theodore and Clemmensen night in and night out knowing that Markstrom is waiting in the wings. Its like when you hear a song on the radio you like but still scan the stations because their could be a song playing on another station that you like even more.
I think Florida should give Theo and Clemmensen a little bit more time and see what happens if they turn things around and the Panthers make a playoff push, there will be no reason to call up Markstrom. If they tank and the Panthers playoff hopes fly out the window than I could see Florida brining Markstrom up to play the last quarter season or so to get some low stress NHL game experience.