Alex Stalock had a stellar season as the San Jose Sharks’ backup goaltender, going 12-5 in 18 starts and recording a 1.87 GAA. During the playoffs, he went 0-1 with a 2.05 GAA in three games, making one start.
Stalock more than cemented his status as a goalie that not only belongs on the Sharks’ roster, but could also be a legitimate candidate for the starting position next season.
One can argue that Stalock was more consistent than Antti Niemi during the regular season. Despite the fact that Niemi was tied for second in the NHL with 39 wins, he struggled at times, especially during the playoffs.
Whenever Niemi faltered or needed rest, Stalock stepped up. His first start came on Oct. 27, which was a 5-2 win in Ottawa over the Senators. But his best stretch of the season came in January, when he set a franchise record for shutouts. He shut out both the Panthers and Jets in back-to-back games before finally allowing a goal to the Kings in his next start. But his streak of not allowing a goal in over 178 minutes of action was good enough to be put in the record books.
While Stalock didn’t win a game during the playoffs, he cannot be faulted for his efforts. In Games 4 and 5, he entered in relief of Niemi when the Sharks were already down big, yet was resilient and did not allow a goal in either appearance. He held down the fort and gave his team a chance to win. Stalock started Game 6 and allowed four goals, but three of them came in the third period when the floodgates opened up for the Kings after a controversial goal when Justin Williams pushed Stalock into the net with the puck. It is not a stretch to argue that Stalock was the better goaltender for the Sharks during the playoffs.
Goaltending-wise, Stalock plays well considering his small stature (6′ 0″, 190 lbs.), which forces him to be ultra-aggresive and come out to challenge shots. He is above average at handling the puck, preferring to dump it off to a player after making save rather than cover it up for a face-off. He also is a fan of making the outlet pass himself, especially on the power play.
Stalock’s performance this season was even more impressive considering the circumstances that nearly ended his career. In 2011 while playing in the minors, an opponent skated over his leg, cutting a nerve. It took almost a year for him to recover, but Stalock defied the odds and found his way back onto the ice. This past offseason, he out-dueled fellow Sharks’ prospect Harri Sateri for the backup role, and is now a bona fide goaltender in the NHL. Perseverance pays off, and that is why Stalock was named as the Sharks’ candidate for the Masterson Trophy, an award given by the NHL each year to the player who perseveres and is dedicated to hockey.
There’s not much to harp on about Stalock, unlike nearly every other player on the Sharks’ roster.
Stalock simply defied any and all expectations, and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise utter failure of a season that ended about as painfully as a season can end.
If head coach Todd McLellan had the guts to pull the plug on Niemi midway through the season and insert Stalock in as the No. 1, would the Sharks still be alive in the postseason right now? If Stalock had perhaps “wowed” a bit more, or if Niemi had struggled a bit more mightily, would that have forced McLellan’s hand into making the switch.
We’ll never know, but none of that is the fault of Stalock. We do know now, however, that Stalock is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and if the Sharks do one thing right this offseason, it would be locking him up to keep him in San Jose.
Stalock’s best moment of the season has to be setting the aforementioned franchise record for shutouts, but here’s his best save of the year, robbing Jamie Benn of the Stars with a fabulous glove stop: