I’ve always said the most popular player on any hockey team is the backup goalie, or the younger players sitting in the stands during any given game. Currently, backup goalie Peter Thome is the preferred choice for many University of North Dakota hockey fans.
But I digress.
Right now, the San Jose Sharks are having their own goalie conundrum. They have two good serviceable goalies and the number two goalie is outperforming the starter. Many of you know who that number 2 goalie is.
Enter former UND Fighting Sioux goalie Aaron Dell. Since I’ve covered the University of North Dakota hockey team, I’ve watched quite a few goalies come and skate through the doors of the UND hockey program. One of the best to play during that time has been Dell. (For comparison sake, I’d put Cam Johnson and Zane McIntyre right behind him, you could probably debate the order). Dell’s on-ice performance is catching the attention of the Sharks media’s and their fans.
Kevin Kurz, The Athletic — Aaron Dell doesn’t typically show much emotion. That’s true of his play on the ice — where it surely benefits his game — and in his postgame press scrums, where he often appears uncomfortable when there is a video camera and many unfamiliar eyeballs pointed in his direction. But when he was asked in Anaheim on Sunday night about how he felt playing back-to-back games for the first time in the NHL — on consecutive nights, no less — his eyes lit up.
“That was awesome,” Dell told reporters, a wide grin appearing on his face. “I haven’t played back-to-back in a long time. I was pretty fresh.”
He certainly looked it. Dell made 33 saves in a 6-2 Sharks win against the Ducks, just one night after a 31-save performance in a much closer 2-1 victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Sharks have won five out of six games since the end of their bye week earlier this month. Dell has three of those wins, and is a stellar 10-0-2 in his last 12 decisions. He’s 12-3-2 on the season, with a 2.17 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
Looking at the NHL’s goalie leaders, so far, Dell has had a great sophomore season. He’s 12-3-0, third in the NHL for GAA (2.17) and save percentage (.929). Presently, he’s also the Sharks go to guy while Martin Jones is out with an injury.
Of course, Rory Boylen tells us that there are some other stats that should be looked at.
Only two of Dell’s 13 starts have come against teams currently in the playoffs, so he may be getting the benefit of softer matchups. It’s a trend that can be traced back to last season, as only two of Dell’s 17 starts in 2016-17 came against teams that ended up in the playoffs. Another factor in Jones’ favour is that, although he has the lower overall save percentage, his 5-on-5 high-danger save rate is actually higher (.810 vs. .790 per Corsica.Hockey).
I play in numerous fantasy hockey leagues and with injuries, there’s not a lot of options for goaltenders. Especially if your league’s teams are allowed to carry three goalies. One could make the case that Dell is becoming an option for fantasy hockey.