- Darren Pang, NHL analyst
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The Eastern Conference All-Star goalies are making a final run at the chance to play in Minnesota in February. The likely starter will be last year's Stanley Cup champion goalie, Marty Brodeur, who is the leader in fan voting.
One goalie who is picking up steam is veteran Ed Belfour. The Leafs continue to play fun, energetic hockey, but the strength of this team will be in goal if they are going to compete for the Cup. Belfour should be in Minny.
The Flyers have been one of the best teams, and although Jeff Hackett and Robert Esche have good numbers, neither will get the nod because they rotate. But if one of them were to go, it would be Hackett.
In Tampa Bay, perennial All-Star Nikolai Khabibulin will get plenty of consideration. Though John Grahame has better stats, he's only played in 10 games to Khabibulin's 19. We all thought Ottawa's Patrick Lalime would be going to the game, but injuries have set him back. Montreal's Jose Theodore may get a sniff; he has played well in facing over 100 more shots than Brodeur.
My choice to be the third goalie is Boston's Andrew Raycroft, the best rookie goalie in the NHL right now. He has played in 19 games, the same as Khabibulin and one more than Hackett. Raycroft has a better goals-against average than Khabby (1.88 to 2.09) and the same amount of wins as Hackett (9). The determining factor is Raycroft's partner, Felix Potvin. Potvin has numbers that are well below Raycroft's, unlike other tandems. Potvin has struggled, going 4-5-3 with a 3.13 GAA and save percentage of .886, which ranks him 40th in the NHL. Raycroft has been carrying the Bruins in goal and has kept them afloat during the past 10 games.
One of last year's Western Conference goalies, Jocelyn Thibault, is doing very well following hip surgery. He told me he'll be getting on skates in January and will be ready to go at some point in February. Although Michael Leighton is holding down the fort right now, the Hawks really miss the winning ways of the amiable Thibault, who was very good on their studio TV show while the Hawks were on the road. Maybe there's a future there when he's done? We can always use more goalies on the TV side, that's for sure.
Curtis Joseph played well Monday night against Florida, making at least 10 good stops from in tight. Cujo was a sight to behold last week in the hotel lobby in Buffalo. He straggled in wearing a Grand Rapids sweat suit after driving in from Cleveland in a Chevrolet Cavalier. He said there wasn't an upgrade available and was lucky enough to find a car for himself and Jiri Hudler.
This may be the turning point for the goaltending situation -- Cujo is winning and Dominik Hasek, who is out with another groin injury, is expected back this week. I know the Red Wings want to get something resolved as soon as possible, but they may want to make sure Hasek is finely tuned enough to stay in the net before moving an asset like Cujo.
The top five for this week:
Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN. His goalie rankings appear every other week in Net Effect.
With three shutouts in five games, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur earns the top spot for the week.