No position is more important or closely scrutinized in the postseason than that of goaltending. By now most teams have settled on their No. 1. But if something happens – injury, poor performance, the need to get the team's attention with a chance – just how well equipped are teams in terms of their backup goalie? This week's power rankings, which are updated every Tuesday, look at what's waiting in the wings if called upon.
1. San Jose Sharks (42-21-9, Previous: 1) – The Sharks have to like what they've seen of Brian Boucher considering he pitched a 24-save shutout on the road during his only appearance since getting signed at the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Boucher, 31, is purely an insurance policy for Evgeni Nabokov, who will wind up playing a career-high number of games somewhere between 77-79.
2. New Jersey Devils (42-24-6, Previous: 3) – Like San Jose with Nabokov, all of the Devils' eggs are in Martin Brodeur's trusty basket. With all the talk about balance in the East, no one has this kind of quality in goal, a fact not to be forgotten. But the focus is on backups, and Kevin Weekes appeared in eight games with the Hurricanes during the 2002 postseason and once with the Rangers in 2006. So at least he's been there.
3. Anaheim Ducks (41-25-8, Previous: 5) – Jonas Hiller is a possible goalie of the future here, but for right now the Ducks can't feel quite as confident if they need to go to a backup as the last couple of postseasons when they could turn to Ilya Bryzgalov. Hiller's regular-season numbers are fine – 2.16 GAA and .920 save percentage – it's just the 26-year-old from Switzerland has only this season's 18 games in terms of NHL experience.
4. Detroit Red Wings (47-20-6, Previous: 2) – First you'd have to determine who is the backup? Chris Osgood has gained the bulk of the starting assignments based on the fact he's had a better year statistically and Dominik Hasek has been in and out with injuries. It's a 1A-1B situation in Detroit where, sure, a goalie can have a bad series but the team doesn't feel like it has to worry about what it'll get in goal come playoff time.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (41-24-7, Previous: 8) – With the way Ty Conklin has surprisingly bounced back from being buried in the minors to basically save the Penguins when starter Marc-Andre Fleury went down to injury and Dany Sabourin struggled when given the chance, it's going to be interesting to see if Pittsburgh opens with the 31-year-old or goes to Fleury. Conklin's only postseason experience is six minutes in relief for Edmonton during the Oilers' run to the Cup finals in 2006.
6. Montreal Canadiens (40-24-9, Previous: 6) – Twenty-year-old starter Carey Price and 22-year-old Jaroslav Halak not only share the fact they're young, but both too have yet to appear in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Halak has appeared in four of his career 20 games this season but sure feels comfortable at home. He's 8-0 with three shutouts at Bell Centre where he is scheduled to start again Tuesday against St. Louis.
7. Ottawa Senators (40-26-7, Previous: 10) – It looks like the man who took the Senators to the finals last season – Ray Emery – will backup the man who was No. 2 for three Cup finalists (Ottawa in 2007, Carolina in 2006 and Anaheim in 2003). This might turn out to be a situation like Detroit where it's a 1A-1B situation, and coach/GM Bryan Murray will go with a hunch as much as past experience.
8. Minnesota Wild (39-26-8, Previous: 13) – Rookie Josh Harding has served as a fairly busy backup (26 games) to Niklas Backstrom, who is only in his second season. The 30-year-old Finnish product was Minnesota's starter in a five-game, first-round series loss to Anaheim last spring. Harding, 23, has no playoff experience in addition to his career 36 regular-season games.
9. Dallas Stars (42-27-5, Previous: 7) – The Stars dealt promising goalie Mike Smith, the rookie who was backing up Marty Turco, and received Johan Holmqvist in return as part of the big trade to acquire Brad Richards from Tampa Bay. Holmqvist, 29, was in goal for Tampa Bay during its opening-round, six-game loss to New Jersey last spring and sported a 2.92 GAA in the series.
10. Calgary Flames (37-25-10, Previous: 9) – Like San Jose, the Flames decided to get a veteran backup for insurance and they have to like the fact Curtis Joseph is there in case anything happens to ironhorse Miikka Kiprusoff. Joseph, 40, has made six appearances for the Flames but has 131 games of playoff experience (62-66 record, 2.44 GAA) spread over 13 postseasons.
11. New York Rangers (37-26-9, Previous: 4) – Steve Valiquette, who covers plenty of net standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 210 pounds, has played well during the little action he's seen (12 games, 2.13 GAA and .917 save percentage). The 30-year-old hasn't appeared in a postseason game so that's uncharted territory if Henrik Lundqvist gets hurt or is ineffective.
12. Vancouver Canucks (37-26-10, Previous: 11) – No disrespect toward Curtis Sanford, but the Canucks are viewed as a team that will go only as far as Roberto Luongo carries them. Sanford has appeared in 13 games, posting a 2.77 GAA and .900 save percentage. Aside from 86 games of career regular-season play, Sanford does not have any postseason experience.
13. Colorado Avalanche (39-29-6, Previous: 12) – Since it appears Jose Theodore has established himself as the starter, the team shouldn't feel any less confident with former No. 1 Peter Budaj in goal. Budaj doesn't have any playoff experience while Theodore has appeared in 37 playoff games, 28 over four seasons in Montreal and in nine with the Avalanche in 2006.
14. Carolina Hurricanes (39-30-5, Previous: 16) – John Grahame has appeared in 17 games as the No. 2 behind starter Cam Ward. Grahame's numbers are hardly impressive – 5-7-1 with a 3.75 GAA and .875 save percentage, but the Hurricanes have also allowed the most goals of any team currently in a playoff spot. The 32-year-old has six games of playoff experience spread over three seasons from 2003-06 with Tampa Bay.
15. Boston Bruins (37-27-9, Previous: 15) – Alex Auld has emerged as the backup to Tim Thomas. Auld has played in 22 games and sported decent numbers (2.34 GAA and .918 save percentage). Auld, 27, has four games of playoff experience, three with Vancouver in 2004 and one as a Canuck in 2003. Thomas, 33, has not appeared in the Stanley Cup playoffs during his late-blooming four-year career.
16. Nashville Predators (36-29-8, Previous: 17) – The Predators haven't received the goaltending from Chris Mason they needed and expected, so this has become a shared net with Dan Ellis, who has made 36 appearances to Mason's 47. Ellis, 27, who has played in seven of the last eight, does not have any playoff experience and Mason struggled during a five-game loss to San Jose last spring.
17. Washington Capitals (35-30-8, Previous: 20) – Since Cristobal Huet came over from Montreal at the deadline, it's been a shared net between the 32-year-old ex-Canadien and the 37-year-old incumbent Olaf Kolzig. The Caps are making their playoff push, but it's an uphill battle to catch the Hurricanes. Huet lost a six-game first-round series with Montreal in 2006 while Kolzig has 45 games of playoff experience over six postseasons, including a 21-game run to the 1998 finals where Washington got swept by Detroit.
18. Buffalo Sabres (34-28-11, Previous: 19) – Thirty-three-year-old journeyman Jocelyn Thibault has appeared in just 11 games in place of No. 1 Ryan Miller. Thibault's numbers are not good (2-4-2, 3.76 GAA and .858 save percentage). Thibault has appeared in 18 playoff games spread over six postseasons with four different teams, and he's only 4-11.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (35-28-10, Previous: 14) – Antero Niittymaki lost the starting status he more or less had assumed for the two previous seasons this year to Martin Biron. Niittymaki, 27, has appeared in 26 games this season and has two games of playoff experience (2006) on his resume. Despite appearing at least a part of 10 NHL seasons, Biron, 30, has yet to see any playoff action.
20. Edmonton Oilers (36-32-5, Previous: 23) – Dwayne Roloson lost his starting job to Mathieu Garon but won Saturday and Sunday on the road during his first starts since Feb. 1, and coach Craig MacTavish sounded like he was prepared to ride Roloson for a while. The Oilers are longshots for the postseason because they're chasing four teams in the division and three in the conference. Roloson guided the 2006 Oilers to Game 7 of the Cup finals before losing in Carolina. He has 33 playoff games on his resume. Garon has just one 12-minute relief stint with Montreal in the 2004 playoffs to his postseason credit.
21. Florida Panthers (35-31-8, Previous: 24) – Craig Anderson has played sparingly behind No. 1 Tomas Vokoun, making only 14 appearances, but he recorded shutouts during two of his last three starts. The 26-year-old has no NHL playoff experience.
22. Phoenix Coyotes (36-32-5, Previous: 21) – Mikael Tellqvist is the backup, but he's appeared only sparingly since Ilya Bryzgalov was claimed off waivers in mid-November. Tellqvist's numbers aren't bad – 8-6-1, 2.46 GAA and .915 save percentage – but the 28-year-old has no postseason experience.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-29-11, Previous: 22) – Fredrik Norrena has appeared in 29 games for the Blue Jackets, who have seen Pascal Leclaire emerge as their No. 1 with an impressive breakout season. Norrena doesn't have a sparkling record (8-14-5) and his other numbers (2.82 GAA and .897 save percentage) are a tad below average. With 84 games of regular-season experience, Norrena has yet to appear in the playoffs.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (34-32-7, Previous: 18) – Nikolai Khabibulin returned in a relief stint Sunday after missing 12 games due to back spasms. Backup Patrick Lalime has either been on or off in the meantime. The Blackhawks are up against it to reach the postseason, but obviously both goalies have extensive playoff experience &ndash Khabibulin having won a Cup with Tampa in 2004 and Lalime has 41 games over four playoff years, all with Ottawa.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (32-31-10, Previous: 25) – Andrew Raycroft has struggled, but he hasn't always had a lot of help in front of him. Still, he has to be disappointed with a 4.07 GAA and .868 save percentage. The 27-year-old lost a seven-game first-round series in 2004 with Boston, but postseason experience doesn't matter much this spring since the Leafs are headed for early tee times.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (29-35-8, Previous: 30) – A reshuffling of the deck here as Mike Smith came in the Brad Richards trade to Dallas to assume No. 1 duties, and rookie Karri Ramo is challenging to backup, leaving Marc Denis, who is under contract for $3 million next season, in limbo.
27. Los Angeles Kings (28-39-6, Previous: 29) – Ah, the Kings. First you'd have to figure out who is their backup goalie. Dan Cloutier is still on the hook for another $3.1 million next season. The team has to seriously look at releasing him and taking the cap hit. Rookie Erik Ersberg is getting a look now, but injured Jason LaBarbera is under contract for next season as is Jonathan Quick, and most expect Jonathan Bernier to be the team's No. 1 sooner rather than later.
28. New York Islanders (32-34-7, Previous: 27) – Wade Dubielewicz has appeared in only 13 games while backing up Rick DiPietro this season. And his numbers aren't a whole lot different from the Islanders' starter – 2.98 GAA and .905 save percentage compared to DiPietro's 2.82 and .902 save percentage. Dubielewicz appeared in his lone postseason game last year but that won't be repeated this season since the Isles will be missing out.
29. Atlanta Thrashers (31-35-8, Previous: 26) – Battling Johan Hedberg has appeared 32 times for the Thrashers, a good chunk while starter Kari Lehtonen was injured early in the season. The 34-year-old has 22 games of playoff experience during three postseasons all with different teams, but it doesn't appear he will have a chance to add to that total this spring.
30. St. Louis Blues (29-32-11, Previous: 28) – Hannu Toivonen has appeared in only 18 games partly because No. 1 Manny Legace has been so good for the Blues. The other reason is Toivonen hasn't been very good, sporting sub-par numbers that include a 3.51 GAA and .874 save percentage. The 23-year-old doesn't have any postseason experience, but it's irrelevant since St. Louis won't be in a position to call on emergency relief after the regular season.