The San Jose Sharks will need Kaapo Kahkonen sooner than later this season.
This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to James Reimer’s 14-of-20 shots stopped performance in the Sharks’ 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
But on that point. “I wasn’t good enough tonight,” he admitted.
Credit to Reimer, by the way, who came out, faced the media music, and answered every question with a smile.
Certainly, Reimer has deserved to be San Jose’s No. 1 goalie so far this season. Reimer has started 13 of 19 games over Kahkonen this season.
But tonight was a reminder that Reimer, in his fourth straight start, hasn’t been a goaltender, historically, who’s going to carry a 55-plus game load a la Andrei Vasilevskiy. In fact, the 34-year-old, over his 13-year NHL career, has never started more than 46 games in a season. He achieved that feat last year.
That’s not a criticism of Reimer. Vasilevskiy is arguably the best netminder in the NHL, and this isn’t the ‘90s, goalies don’t make 55-plus appearances as often in a season anymore. Last season, just 10 keepers played that much. In 1997-98, there were 18.
The point is, Reimer will need help from his battery mate soon – that’s why the Sharks inked the 26-year-old Kahkonen to a two-year, $5.5 million dollar contract this past off-season.
The talented young keeper hasn’t held up his end of the bargain yet though. A very rough measure of this, Kahkonen has just one Quality Start (of six) this season, according to Hockey Reference. Reimer has seven Quality Starts (of 13).
If the San Jose Sharks are going to truly drag themselves into the thick of the playoff race, they’ll likely need both Reimer and Kahkonen going.
We ask David Quinn regularly who the Sharks’ No. 1 goalie is – it’s a default media question – but the truth of the matter is, looking at the track records of Reimer (career high: 46 starts) and Kahkonen (career high: 33 starts), it’s more of a 1A-1B situation in San Jose, and that’s best for both netminders.
For what it’s worth, there is statistical evidence that suggests Reimer does wear down a little if you overplay him.
Including Thursday night, according to hockeygoalies.org, Reimer has made 95 fourth-straight-or-more regular season starts over his career.
His Save % in these starts is .910.
Reimer’s Save % on all other shots, including his first, second, and third-straight starts? .913.
Now that’s not an enormous difference, and I wonder how splits would look like for Vasilevskiy and other elite keepers.
But there’s probably a reason why Reimer has never been his team’s undisputed starter for an 82-game season. I’m defining that as rough 50-plus starts in a full year.
Reimer, right now, is on pace for 56 starts.
So hopefully, Kahkonen has used his recent time off well.
Quinn noted of his current 1B last week, after his poor performance against the St. Louis Blues: “I think with goaltending, it’s confidence more than anything else. He hasn’t played bad, but there’s certainly another level for him to get to.”
The San Jose Sharks’ next contest is this Saturday against the New York Rangers at SAP Center. Will Kahkonen finally show that level?
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