- Craig Custance
Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was hanging out at the team hotel in San Jose on Wednesday evening with a couple of minutes to spare, so he agreed to help analyze data mined on NHL backup goaltenders this season.
The NHL's goalie tandems were split into clear No. 1 goalies and backups, with some teams like Toronto, Calgary, Philadelphia and New Jersey thrown out of the equation because the goalie job is shared.
The exercise was done to see if any team was building points in the first quarter of the season by feasting on backup goalies. Or if other teams are hurt in the standings because of a lack of effective play from their backup.
The results in some cases were surprising. The conclusions reached by those in the game equally surprising.
"Who has seen the most backups?" Cooper asked.
Three teams have seen nine backup goalies each already this season: the Islanders, Penguins and Avalanche. The Penguins and Avalanche have done a good job of capitalizing on the opportunity, with the Penguins registering a 7-2-0 record in those games, good for a league-best 14 points against backup goalies. The Avalanche are 6-3-0, and the Islanders earned 10 points against backup goalies, one of six teams to reach double digits in points against backups. The Islanders have actually earned more points against backups than No. 1 goalies this season.
But I called Cooper because his team has been one of the league's most opportunistic. They've seen only six backup goalies this season but are 5-1-0 in those games. The Blues, at 6-0-1, are another team that capitalizes.