Columbus Blue Jackets
Steve Mason hasn’t started back-to-back games for Columbus since December 1, so it’s been a heavy dose of Mathieu Garon. He has played pretty well this season (8-6-2 2.32 GAA, 913 SV%), but his last two starts have been forgettable, as he has allowed ten goals in four periods. Mason looked good on Monday, stopping 37 of 40 shots in a 4-3 shootout win over the Wild, but his two starts prior were awful. He allowed six goals in one and two goals in four minutes before being yanked in the other. Interesting stat from the Elias Sports Bureau: Mason is 8-3 when facing 30 or more shots and just 2-6-1 when facing fewer than 30 shots. It’ll be interesting to see what coach Scott Arniel decides each night from here on out, although he recently announced that Garon would be his starting goalie for the time being.
Pascal Leclaire hasn’t played since 2005. Just kidding, but it sure feels that way with all the time he missed (his last start was December 16). Leclaire, who has gone 3-1 in his past four while allowing only seven goals, is on the shelf again with a lower body injury. Brian Elliott should see most of the starts in Leclaire’s absence, but he’s gone just 3-9 over his past twelve games. What this means is that Mike Brodeur, who was just called up, could see a few starts as well.
San Jose Sharks
The goalie situation in San Jose seems to change every week, and sometimes it’s anyone’s guess as to which goalie will start on a nightly basis. Antero Niittymaki started Wednesday night and didn’t fare too well, allowing five goals in a 5-3 loss to the Wild. But Antti Niemi had started the previous two games. Through the Sharks’ first 37 games, Niemi had 18 starts and Niittymaki had 19. Niittymaki has better numbers (12-4-3, 2.44 GAA, .905 SV%), and has been playing better recently, winning four in a row before Wednesday, but Niemi demonstrated last year with Chicago that he is durable and reliable. His biggest problem is that he’s had good starts followed by bad starts and has been unable to stay consistent. For now, Niemi seems to be a slam dunk to start against his former team on Thursday, but let’s see if he can take the ball and run with it.
The Capitals recently ended an eight-game losing streak, and neither goalie had been playing well. Semyon Varlamov was torched for seven goals in a 7-0 loss to the Rangers two weeks ago, but has had three good starts since then. Varlamov has allowed four goals in his past three games (2-0-1), including a shutout on Tuesday in stopping all 25 shots that the Canadiens threw at him. Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth has cooled off since his hot start, going 2-6 in his past eight starts, although he has been solid in his past three, allowing only five goals on 89 shots (.944 SV%). The Caps’ next game is the Winter Classic, and we’d have to bet that Varly will get to play outside after pitching a shutout on Tuesday.