This was (and honestly still is) the easiest of the preview posts. For the most part it is still the same group from last season.
The problem with that? There is still some consistency in Washington as well. As in, a Caps goalie is already injured and Braden Holtby has already been recalled.
We haven't even reached the regular season and injuries are already causing problems for the goaltending.
From what I have read though the injury to Michal Neuvirth is not serious and recalling Holtby was only done to provide another goalie for practice. But, considering the past couple of seasons has to worry the Caps and Bears as far as goaltending is concerned.
Last year Hershey went with Holtby and Dany Sabourin for much of the year. Overall there were a bunch of goalies that either saw time or at least dressed for games that many of us had never heard of. Hopefully this year will not be a repeat of that.
Sabourin went 14-9 with a 2.45 gaa, a .908 save percentage, and 2 shutouts before having his season end early in 2011 with a new injury. He was playing great over the last month before getting hurt as well. In 6 January games he went 6-0 with a 1.83 gaa, a .933 save percentage, and 1 shutout. Damn good.
In fact, if you take out the first 4 games of last season Sabourin's numbers were at least as good as Braden's. He went 13-6, 2.21 gaa, and a .917 save percentage from November through January.
That's a pretty good rotation at the #1 and #2 for any AHL team. For the regular season.
The potential problem for 2011-12 is the playoff performances of Braden Holtby. No reason to sugarcoat this...he has struggled.
He has played in 9 playoff games over the past 2 postseasons. He is 4-5 with a 3.22 gaa and a .881 save percentage. He has allowed MORE THAN 3 goals 4 different times. And he hasn't held a team below 2 goals yet.
Two years ago it was his first playoff opportunity and he did manage to get 2 wins (although one of those was thanks to a great offense as he gave up 5 goals before the Bears won in overtime). Then Neuvirth returned from injury and led the Bears to their second straight Calder Cup.
Last year the entire team wasn't quite ready for the postseason. A lack of consistent offense and some struggles by the defense made life difficult for Braden.
BUT, in the end a goalie is judged on his playoff performances and up until now Braden has struggled in the postseason.
Sabourin has only played in 7 playoff games over his entire AHL career. He had 1 back in 98-99 and he played in 6 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 05-06. So he isn't even playoff tested at this level.
So while the regular season should go very strong for both Sabourin and Holtby there has to be a major concern as to whether or not they have the ability to raise their level of play in the postseason.
Should either Tomas Vokoun, Neuvirth, Holtby, or Sabourin get hurt at some point this season the Bears/Caps have a couple goalies stored in South Carolina ready to come up and play.
Daren Machesney is back in the organization and, based on previous years, will surely get an opportunity for the Bears this season. He didn't have a great year last year going 7-18-1 for 4 different teams in the ECHL and AHL.
Grubauer has impressed in different camps over the past few months and I am sure the organization is excited to get a look at him in a game situation. He is expected to play in an exhibition game for the Bears this weekend.
So, the goalies in Hershey are phenomenal in the regular season and questionable in the playoffs. The next line of defense in South Carolina are struggling or unproven.
Plenty of questions to answer this season.