Ranking the top-five NHL goalie tandems

The 2019-20 NHL season is still on pause but the Columbus Blue Jackets are staying busy, locking up goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins to contract extensions in the past few weeks.

According to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, Korpisalo’s deal is a two-year extension worth a reported $5.6 million and Merzlikins’ deal is also a two-year extension worth a reported $8 million.

As evidenced by the Blue Jackets, NHL teams these days often rely on two goalies to get them through the rigors of the season. The days of netminders starting 65 to 70 games a season is over.

With that in mind, here are the five-best goalie tandems in the league right now:

5. Darcy Kuemper/Antti Raanta (Arizona Coyotes)

Over the last two seasons, the Coyotes goalie duo has been one of the best in the NHL. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Coyotes have the fourth-best goals-against average (2.65) and the fifth-best save percentage (.925).

Both goalies, however, have battled injuries and have struggled to stay on the ice consistently. Raanta has played in only 45 games in the last two seasons while Kuemper missed over two months this year with a lower-body injury.

This season, Kuemper posted a 2.22 GAA (tied for third-best in NHL) and a .928 save percentage as he earned his first All-Star game selection, although me missed out on the game through injury. With Kuemper on the shelf, Raanta performed admirably, posting a 2.63 GAA and .921 save percentage.

Durability is the only knock on this duo as both are capable of making highlight-reel saves, including this save of the year candidate from Raanta.

4. Elvis Merzlikins/Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Columbus has put together arguably the brightest goaltending duo in the league thanks to the emergence of Merzlikins this year. In his rookie season, the 26-year-old has played in 33 games, posting a 2.35 GAA and a .923 save percentage in relief of the injured Korpisalo.

Korpisalo, on the other hand, has played in 37 games, posting a 2.60 GAA and .911 save percentage as he was named to his first All-Star game (he too missed out through injury). The Finnish goaltender missed 24 games with a knee injury to put his rookie counterpart in the spotlight. 

After going winless in his first 10 career appearances, Merzlikins won his first career NHL game on New Year’s Eve against the Florida Panthers. Over the course of the next 23 games, he posted a 1.97 GAA and a .935 save percentage, winning eight straight games and tallying five shutouts. His five shutouts are tied for second-most in the NHL.

The two goalies turned around the Blue Jackets’ season and helped put Columbus in a playoff position before the season was put on hold.

3. Jordan Binnington/Jake Allen (St. Louis Blues)

There’s been no Stanley Cup hangover for the Blues, with Binnington and Allen a big reason why St. Louis entered the pause with the league’s second-best record.

In 50 starts, Binnington has a 30-13-7 record, a 2.56 GAA and a .912 save percentage. His backup has been even more impressive, as Allen ranks second among NHL goalies who have played at least 23 games with a 2.15 GAA. His .927 save percentage is fourth-best in the league.

The Blues have two starting-caliber goaltenders to play behind the league’s fifth-best defense, especially with Allen experiencing a career season. If the 2019-20 season does resume, the Blues are poised to make another deep playoff run due in large part to their goalie duo.

2. Ben Bishop/Anton Khudobin (Dallas Stars)

Dallas has arguably the least talked about goalie duo in the league. Bishop has played in 44 games while Khudobin has played in 30 games. In his third season in the Lone Star state, Bishop has a 2.50 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

His backup, Khudobin, has been even better. As one of the best goalies in the league this season, he leads the NHL with a .930 save percentage and is tied for third with a 2.22 GAA.

The Stars have the second-best defense in the league thanks to its consistent play in goal, making them a dark horse Stanley Cup contender should the season resume.

1. Tuukka Rask/Jaroslav Halak (Boston Bruins)

The team with the best record in the NHL has both the league’s best defense and goaltending tandem. After falling short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year, the Bruins were the first team to reach 100 points this season, sporting a 44-14-12 record.

In 41 games this season, Rask has an NHL-best 2.12 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Halak has been just as good, with a 2.39 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

Rask is a prime example of how the league has shifted its philosophy of goaltender usage. From 2014-17, Rask started at least 64 games a season. Since the 2017-18 season, however, Rask has played no more than 54 games. He’s also seen his total shots against decrease every year since the 2014-15 season, declining from 2,011 SA that year to 1,189 SA this season.

This strategy has enabled Rask to be at his freshest entering the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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