The 2022-23 goaltender tandem for the Ottawa Senators seems to reflect the team’s performance. As they say, a coach is only as good as his goaltending. As a side note, congratulations to D.J. Smith on earning his 100th career NHL victory, Thursday in Arizona. Back to the goaltending, and when the team has been good, the goaltenders have followed it up, by not being noticeable, but being good. Hence, when the team has struggled, so too has the goaltending. Such as, letting in inopportune wrist shots from the high slot. Here we attempt to compare the team’s two main goaltenders, in the current 1A, 1B situation. We try to narrow down which one might be the better option. Also, we add some points on the future of the organization, and which direction might be best.
Getting To Know the Ottawa Senators Goaltenders
In the tale of the tape, Cam Talbot comes in at 6’4”, weighing in at 196 lbs. Anton Forsberg is a bit leaner, at 6’2” and 176 lbs. Talbot, 35, is a 10-year veteran of the league, who has appeared in 420 career NHL games. His best season was back in 2016-17, with the Edmonton Oilers where he was 42-22-8, with a 2.39 GAA and a .919 SV%. Additionally, he was fourth in Vezina voting that season. In contrast, the 30-year-old Forsberg was a bit of a late bloomer. Last season’s performance with a 22-17-4 record, .917 SV%, and a 2.82 GAA saw him earn his current three-year, $8 million contract. He has appeared in 123 games, over eight NHL seasons, with four different clubs.
Very Similar Statistics for the Two Ottawa Senator Goaltenders
The two back stoppers, Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg for the most part are pretty similar. Both of their play this season has been indicative of the team’s performance. One statistic that ends up determining how often a team will win, GAA, they are close. Talbot is 2.90, good for 25th in the league amongst goalies with 15 games or more played. Meanwhile, Forsberg is 30th at 3.04. The team combined has a 2.98 GAA, versus a GFA of 2.95, and we see why the Senators sit at a middling 19-19-3. In addition, both goalies sport a very similar SV%, Forsberg slightly better this time at .909 (21st) and Talbot .906 (25th). A stat one might think watching them, set them apart but ends up being a telling one of how similar they have played is rebounds per save. Forsberg is at 0.058, whereas Talbot’s 0.061, which is good for 40th and 43rd, respectively, in the league.
As we can see from these statistics, both goalies have some pretty similar characteristics this season. One troubling thing for the Senators is where they rank in the statistics mentioned so far. Even though one could argue, having two, top-30 goalies among starters is a good thing. However, when neither of them possesses numbers high enough to be in the top 16, reflective of a playoff position, that is where the concern comes in.
Talbot is the 1 A Starter Afterall
Thus far we have discussed what has made the goaltender tandem similar for the Ottawa Senators this campaign. Next, let us shift our focus to the discrepancies in the numbers. After missing much of the first month of the season with an injury, Talbot watched as Forsberg had the starter’s reign. However, since that time, Talbot tends to get the number one tag. When the Senators have been faced with more important games, Talbot gets the nod. One metric indicating he is deserving of tough assignments is High Danger SV%. Talbot has a .742 (15th), whereas Forsberg’s .713 puts him in 27th league-wide. For comparative purposes, Pyotr Kochetkov (Carolina Hurricanes) sits first at an astonishing .872. Another interesting stat is that Talbot sees fewer shots. When adjusted for 60-minute increments, Talbot sees about 2.5 fewer shots a game than Forsberg.
Perhaps Forsberg Should Get Tougher Assignments
Now, this is not to say that some numbers do not favour Forsberg as well. Forsberg leads the way in what is regarded as one of the more important goaltender metrics. In the statistic, goals saved above expected Forsberg is ahead, and by a significant margin. His 8.5 ranks 11th in the league. On the other hand, Talbot has only mustard up -0.9, which puts him 33rd, and shows in the team’s overall record. Across the league, it is no surprise to see a Boston Bruin leading the way, with Linus Ullmark’s 22.7.
The Organizational Depth Chart
Outside of the Ottawa Senators main goaltender tandem they do have some promising goaltending prospects in the system. This is what makes the decision to change from last year’s plan with Matt Murray and Filip Gustavsson a reasonable one. The fact that both have had bounce-back seasons should not reflect on management’s abilities, as both were given a chance in the organization. Neither was able to show they were a proper fit for the respective roles (starter and backup, respectively).
Finnish Prospect Leevi Merilainen
Right now, probably the top goaltending prospect for the Ottawa Senators is Leevi Merilainen. Last season he struggled a bit, playing with Shane Wright, and the Kingston Frontenacs. Despite a nice 31-16-5 record, his .891 SV% shows a goalie who just was not comfortable. Skip to this year, he has gone back home to Karpat in the Finnish Liiga. So far, he has a .916 SV% along with three shutouts. His development curve has gotten back on track, and if continues he could be motivated to come back to Belleville.
Belleville Senators Goalie Mads Sogaard
The other big Senators goalie prospect has unfortunately taken a step back in his development this season. The Medicine Hat Tiger Alum, Mads Sogaard, does possess a high ceiling. Literally, and figuratively, as he stands at 6’7”. Back in 2020-21, he had a .918 SV% with Esbjerg Energy of the Danish men’s league. He then came to Belleville and continued his stellar play, with a .917 SV%. Albeit, this was a small seven-game sample size, still impressive nonetheless. Last season saw him play well, and even get in two games of NHL action. However, we have seen this season his play slip a little. Some of this has been a result of the team being impacted by injuries and call-ups. Lately, he has bounced back a bit and does have a .907 SV% in 16 contests.
The Senators are trying everything they can to be prepared for next season and to elevate to perennial playoff contenders. The goaltending will be a huge piece of this playoff picture puzzle. With all we have discussed, it appears Talbot still maintains the top seed. Another interesting point is Talbot is 4-5-1 against current playoff teams, and Forsberg is not so effective at 2-6-2. It seems like what the Senators organization wants to do is try to keep Talbot for two or three years, with Forsberg in a supporting role. This gives their prospects time to develop or search for a new number one through then trade or free agent routes.