Stalock Forcing McLellan’s Hand?


(photo: Dinur Blum)

SAN JOSE- For the past month or so, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has been hinting that his No. 2 netminder Alex Stalock would see more playing time.

However, prior to Stalock’s start in Florida on Jan. 16, the Minnesota native had been getting pretty much the same insignificant playing time all season. For most of the year, he has been one of the least utilized backups in the entire NHL.

But that looks like it is finally about to change. Stalock has now started three of San Jose’s past nine games (33%). In the Sharks previous 42 games, Stalock started just five times (12%).

The rookie netminder is coming close to forcing McLellan’s hand.

Similar to how it used to be “win day” for the San Francisco Giants between 2009-11 when Tim Lincecum took the mound, the same is starting to become true for the Sharks and Stalock. His starts are slowly becoming known as “win day” for Team Teal.

In eight starts, Stalock is now 7-1 with a .946 save percentage including back-to-back shutouts in his last two games against Florida (first SO of his career) and Winnipeg.

As great as those overall numbers sound, he is even better as of late. In his past four starts dating back to Dec. 21, Stalock is 4-0 with a save percentage of .968. How bout we round that up, shall we? In his last four starts, Stalock is saving 97% of the pucks that come his way! That is flat out ridonculous. Not ridiculous, ridonculous!

It’s no slight to Antti Niemi, who is a worthy goaltender who still deserves just as much of a chance to play, but right now it’s hard to fathom why the Sharks wouldn’t begin to ride the hot hand a bit more.

Outside a strong three game stretch between Jan. 9 through Jan. 14, Niemi hasn’t exactly been great the past three weeks or so. He was pulled twice in four games leading up to the three game hot streak and was far from great in his last two starts since. His .913 season save percentage is pretty emblematic of his performance this year. The best word to describe his year so far would be decent.

The word to describe Stalock’s year so far would be phenomenal, albeit it with a small sample size. Thus far this season the Sharks have won 62% of Niemi’s starts while they have won 87% of Stalock’s. Small sample size or not, 25% difference is nothing to sneeze at.

Plus, when you take into consideration that Stalock is one of the best goaltenders in the league at playing the puck, whereas Niemi is mediocre at best, one could make the case Stalock brings more to the table.

It certainly isn’t hard to picture Stalock earning more of a 50-50 split if he continues to put up these gaudy numbers in his next few starts.


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