When this season started, most assumed that goaltending would be the least of the Senators' worries. Brian Elliott had played solid (though unspectacular) hockey last year for the Senators, and Pascal Leclaire was prematurely labeled the best goaltender in Ottawa Senators history by Pierre McGuire, a statement that was often repeated before this season began. Why Senators fans listened to Pierre is beyond me, although it likely stems from that burning desire for a true franchise goaltender, something the Senators have never had for an entire season.
Unfortunately, neither Pascal Leclaire nor Brian Elliott is that franchise goalie, or at least not yet. Here are their stats, including where they ranked in the league for save percentage on the season:
Those stats aren't just mediocre, they're flat out terrible. The only goalies with worse save percentages than Leclaire or Elliott are Steve Mason (46th) and Vesa Toskala (48th).
Looking at NHL.com's stats page, there hasn't been a goalie tandem in Ottawa Senators' history that comes close to posting such bad stats. The worst insult around these parts is to call a goaltender's play Gerber-esque, but it pains me to say that even Martin Gerber never had as poor of numbers as these two goalies.
For comparison's sake, here are the other worst goaltending performances in Ottawa since the 97-98 season (I've only included those with save percentages worse than .900):
|Name (Season)||GP||GAA||SV% (Rank)
|Martin Gerber (2008-09)||14||2.86||.899 (33)
|Ron Tugnutt (1999-2000)||44||2.54||.899 (18)
Obviously, it's hard to compare pre-lockout goalie stats with those post-lockout, but sinking below the .900 level is a sure sign of a poor year for a goalie, and a team can't survive if both keepers are below that line. In no other year have both main keepers been below .900, and usually there's one who was above .910. The only comparable season to the current is 1999-2000, where Patrick Lalime posted a 2.33 GAA and .905 SV% the same season that Tugnutt fell under .900. Yet in that season, Tugnutt and Lalime were 18th and 22nd in league SV%, not near the bottom feeding that Leclaire and Elliott are currently doing.
To answer the question I posed in the title: I don't believe they are, but they are certainly playing like it. Both Elliott and Leclaire have the talent to perform much better than they are, yet their mental focus is highly questionable and the Ottawa Senators defence are making their numbers even worse than they should be. However, no amount of excuses can justify the frequency of soft goals currently allowed by these two.
If Ottawa wants to hold on to its current playoff spot (they're tied for 8th in the East), then goaltending is something that will have to improve. If it doesn't, one will have to assume that Bryan Murray will either have to make a move,
or goalie coach Eli Wilson will be headed out of town after failing to keep any of the team's goaltenders performing at acceptable levels in the past few seasons. (After writing this article, but before it was posted, Eli Wilson was fired).