Berra, Bobrovsky, And Braden

Oct 14th 2014, 2:26am EDT

by Justin Goldman

It has been a really fun start to the season when it comes to scouting backups and prospects. With 49 goalies appearing in games so far (you could say that's 19 backups), minutes have been really spread out in Week 1. Dustin Tokarski, Martin Jones, Reto Berra, and Cam Talbot have already appeared in two games each. That's an interesting stat to consider, as all four of those guys play behind workhorse starters widely considered to be some of the best one-year fantasy goalies in the NHL.

That being said, there has been no shortage of notes to share with you all. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @TheGoalieGuild, as I'm back into the groove of posting notes and Vines on some of the stuff I'm seeing around the league.

RETO BERRA: This guy is NOT the same goalie he was with Calgary. Thanks to Francois Allaire, Berra is playing a more conservative, contained, and economical game. He was a wreck with the Flames ... way too aggressive, unable to control rebounds, and losing his net on any type of shot from an angle. But as I noticed from the first day of Training Camp, he's really starting to utilize his frame in a more efficient manner. I've posted videos of him doing drills with Allaire, and all of his saves are being made inside the blue paint. He was very good in the preseason, and he was very good today against the Bruins. The only goal he's allowed so far this season was on the PP. Varlamov has been slightly above average in the first two games and I think he's starting to feel a little bit of pressure from the attention Berra is getting. Remember, Berra has a three year contract...and Allaire sees him as a transformation project. There's going to be more starts coming Berra's way if he keeps playing like this. Varlamov is a little tense right now ... rebounds are popping off him into bad areas ... it burned him a few times against the Wild. Nothing to be concerned about if you're a Varlamov owner...but I'd consider taking a look at Berra...he'll be readily available in most leagues right now.

SERGEI BOBROVSKY: When you're already one of the most athletic and flexible goalies in the league, not much can be done to increase those natural skills. But even the smallest edge in equipment can lift those skills ever so slightly. And even if it only helps you make one or two saves that you wouldn't normally make, that could be one or two more wins, one or two more SV% points, one or two more shutouts. Very few people know this, but Bobrovsky has a sick new set of goalie skates that gives him a noticeable edge on most other goalies in the league. Only a few have the VH Footwear and Voltaire cowlings he has (Hiller is one), and Bobrovsky has been raving about these to his equipment manager, and Curtis McElhinney. He loves them so much that he even bought McElhinney a pair. They're like $3500. They are basically like the Lamborghini of goalie skates, and most NHL goalies are wearing BMW's. I know this has nothing to do with statistical analysis, but trust me, equipment plays a key role in performance, and I think Bobrovsky has a lot of confidence in his edgework right now. If you see him make a huge back-door save or an unreal toe save, or he just looks a little sharper to you than usual, that's a big reason why. I watched his first two games and he has been solid. If this is how he plays on most nights, he could very easily be a Vezina Trophy finalist. Let's see how the team holds up around him as the week moves on.

DEVAN DUBNYK: As Dobber pointed out, Smith traditionally sucks in the first few games of the season. Same goes for Henrik Lundqvist. I think Dubnyk finally found a cushy home in Phoenix. Nobody gives a crap about the backup goalie down there, he has one of the best goalie coaches in the league in Sean Burke, and Burke is one of the best goalie coaches for a guy of Dubnyk's size and stature to work with. It's a good match. That doesn't mean anything this early in the season, but Dubnyk did look good in his win over the Kings, and he made a huge save with seconds left to help earn an OT win over the Kings. But I can tell you that Dubnyk is one of the most mentally fragile goalies in the league. He's a lot like what Peter Budaj was with the Avalanche ... if he made saves early, he'd be fine. If he gave up juicy rebounds early, he was a wiltering leaf and usually crumbled. But Budaj didn't have any goalie coaching in Colorado ... and Dubnyk didn't have much in Edmonton, except for a ton of pressure as a former first-rounder in the cauldron known as Edmonton. Goalies are somewhat a product of their environment, and it's only fair to say that Dubnyk's environment in Phoenix is more condusive to some success. Even if he's still someone I'd never want to own in a league, he's someone to keep an eye on, at least until Smith shakes off the rust.

That's probably the most important thing to remember right now --- a lot of starters are shaking off rust. It's never easy to start the season red-hot, which is why we've seen so many backups already earning minutes. Guys like Price and Lundqvist and even Luongo to an extent will be fine, but you can clearly tell more emphasis is being placed on utilizing backups around the league, so expect those minutes to continue getting spread out as October continues.

BRADEN HOLTBY: This guy is electric and has done very well in his first two games. Mitch Korn has already cut the leash Holtby was on last year when Adam Oates egotistically told Braden he wanted him playing deeper in the net. You can't change the spots on a leopard...you have to let goalies be themselves, and if you want to change them, you do it in small increments over the summer, not in the middle of the season. That's the type of wisdom Korn has taught me over the past three years as an assistant at his summer camps, and that's the same thing he's doing with Holtby and Peters. Braden is slowly dialing it back just a little bit, but now he's back to being an aggressive, react-from-the-skates goalie that made him so successful before Oates tried tinkering with things. It's only a few games, but it's great to see Holtby being his natural self again...it should definitely equate to better numbers and more consistency.

Jhonas Enroth's corsi against (CA%) is an insane 69.1% in his two games. Michal Neuvirth's was 68.1% against the Ducks. Those two guys are in for a long season. I still think Neuvirth is the goalie to own if you're crazy enough to take a risk on either of them. I've liked him since he entered the league and even though he's been underperforming as a whole, at least now he has the excuse of being on a terrible team. That may be what he needs to just relax a little bit and do the best he can. I'm personally a fan, and I'll just leave it at that for now.

Craig Anderson's shutout today was against the Panthers, he's SO money against those guys. My early impression of him is that he's definitely made some nice refinements in his style; he's not as unorthodox as he appeared last year. But I still see him as a guy that will be inconsistent this year and quite frustrating to own. I think Robin Lehner, who was extremely solid in his first win this season over Tampa Bay, will have better stats in a smaller workload. But that shift in roles is coming...I don't know when, but it's coming. He is too good and too big and too athletic.

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Throwback Thursday
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On Steve Mason and Mike Smith
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Test for the ramblings
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