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Ottawa Senators 2021-22 Season Preview: Goaltenders

Taking a look between the crease for the Senators in the 2021-22 season

NHL: OCT 01 Preseason - Canadiens at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re just one week away from the Ottawa Senators season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and we at Silver Seven continue to preview the season. We’ve taken a look at the forwards and defensemen, and now we’ll be discussing the goaltenders. Despite how unpredictable they are, let’s see if we can analyze the Senators goaltenders anyway:

Projected Lineup:

The “lineup” for the goaltenders is pretty straightforward compared to the forwards and defense, with it looking like this:

Matt Murray

Anton Forsberg

Murray is signed for three more seasons at a cap hit of $6.25M, so he isn’t going anywhere just yet. Forsberg was waived and claimed three times in the span of two months last season before he finally found a home in Ottawa and re-signed for this season. He has a one-way contract, so unless he gets injured, he will begin the season in the NHL. Considering he has played AHL games in six of the past seven seasons, there’s no guarantee he’ll be staying with the big club for the whole season.

Filip Gustavsson has to also be considered here as he is the third goalie on the depth chart. He’ll begin the year in Belleville as their starter, and as soon as there is an injury to Murray or Forsberg, he’ll be the first man up. He had an eye-popping .933 SV% in his first 9 NHL games last season where he looked unstoppable. He’s had an up-and-down AHL career but was decent last season in 12 games there with a .910 SV%.

Other than those three, Kevin Mandolese and Mads Søgaard are the next two goalies who probably won’t see any action but they will if there are multiple injuries. Mandolese had an .888 SV% in 9 AHL games and Søgaard had a .917 SV% in 7 games. Many of these stats are in very small samples, so take them with a grain of salt. What’s interesting about this season is that Marcus Högberg and Joey Daccord are gone, which really opens up the door for Gustavsson as he seems the closest to NHL-ready.

Strengths:

Ottawa has made it a priority to accumulate as many young goaltenders as possible, and I certainly don’t mind that strategy. After losing Högberg and Daccord they aren’t as deep as they were last year, but overall they still have Murray, Forsberg, Gustavsson, Søgaard, Mandolese, plus Leevi Meriläinen in the OHL. They had points in previous years where they only had one legitimate goalie prospect, but now they have four intriguing options. The only thing is that Gustavsson is probably the only one who could actually perform in the NHL this season.

In terms of NHL talent for 2021-22, Murray has looked like one of the best goalies in the league at times. He owns a .921% career playoff SV% in 51 games and was incredible with a .937% mark in Pittsburgh’s 2017 run. There’s no doubt that he has the potential to be a massive boost to the Senators, which is why Pierre Dorion traded for him in the first place. Murray was also much better down the stretch last season as he had a .954 SV% in his final five games after coming back from his injury. I can’t imagine him not having another good season left in him.

Forsberg probably isn’t anything more than a backup, but if neither he nor Murray aren’t quite good enough, Gustavsson could always be someone to take the reins. He was one of the main reasons why Ottawa was so successful down the stretch last season as they won 5 of his 7 starts. He was fantastic as a 19-year-old in the SHL while posting a .918 SV%, so he’s shown that he can play against older and elite competition.

Weaknesses:

There is so much uncertainty. As mentioned, Murray has two Stanley Cups on his resume, but he hasn’t been effective in three of the past four seasons. Since 2017, 44 goalies have played at least 100 games, and Murray ranks 36th in SV% at .907%. At some point, he can’t keep riding on his previous accomplishments and he’ll need to prove that he can be the goalie that was unstoppable for two playoff runs in a row.

With Forsberg, there’s no guarantee he’ll even be an NHL calibre goalie. He’s surprisingly only played 56 career games to the tune of a .902 SV%, which ranks 80th out of 82 goalies who have played 50+ games since he came into the league in 2014. He was a bit better last year in his eight games with Ottawa where he had a .909 SV%, but that’s about what to expect from a backup and it wasn’t a very large sample. As previously mentioned, there’s a reason he was placed on waivers so many times last season.

I think you could easily make a statistical case for this tandem being in the bottom-three of the NHL.

The Bottom Line:

Should we be very confident in these goaltenders? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have good seasons. Murray clearly has the talent, Forsberg could easily have a solid 20-game stretch like random backups sometimes do, and Gustavsson is a wildcard who could/should be the goalie of the future.

Goalies are impossible to predict anyway, so sometimes when it looks bleak, someone ends up surprising you (and vice versa). I think it’s fair to say that if the Senators want to have any chance to make the playoffs (or even come close), they’ll need to have much better goaltending. They ranked 28th at .895% last season but they’ll need to at least get closer to average in the .905% range. In fact, a boost from .895% to .905% would’ve saved them 18 extra goals, which is a massive difference. Anything can happen, and I’d be shocked if things look exactly the same a year from now.