Our series dedicated to grading every play on the 2019-20 Flint Firebirds roster is coming to a close. With the forwards and defensemen now in the rearview, it’s now time to shift our attention to the goaltenders. Technically, three individuals manned the creased for the Firebirds this season. However, Peyton Grainer only saw action in one contest. Therefore, including him in this assessment exercise just wouldn’t seem right.
In assessing each player, a lot of criteria were considered to best determine an appropriate grade for each member of the roster. The focus was not only on their overall production this year but also the advances each player made in their individual development.
Of course, player grades are always subjective, especially when you start attaching a “+” or “-” to the letter. These evaluations are certainly open for debate and feedback is strongly encouraged.
GP: 47 | GAA: 3.63 | SV%: .896 | Record: 29-17-1-0
Prior to this season, goaltending was always a sore thumb for the Firebirds. Heading into the 2019-20 season, Flint addressed the situation acquiring Anthony Popovich from the Guelph Storm. It is safe to say that the Firebirds would not have experienced the success this year without Popovich in between the pipes. For once, they possessed a true number one netminder capable of taking the lion’s share of the starts.
There’s no denying that Popovich’s numbers were mediocre. His save percentage sat outside the top ten in the OHL while his goals-against average was outside the top twenty. However, the overage netminder played in the fourth-most contests and accrued the fifth-most wins. In the OHL, goalie numbers can be deceiving when it comes to overall effectiveness. Even though Popovich’s stats could have been better, there’s no denying the impact he had on the Firebirds roster this season.
Player Grade: B+
Popovich provided something Flint hasn’t had since its inception, stability in net. With that problem eliminated, the Firebirds were able to thrive and become one of the top teams in the league. However, the mediocrity of his numbers must be considered when dishing out a grade. There was still more to be desired there, making it impossible to give him a grade in the “A” range.
GP: 20 | GAA: 3.68 | SV%: .895 | Record: 11-4-0-1
With Popovich assuming the number-one role, that left Luke Cavallin to take care of the backup goalie duties. The 19-year-old netminder faced a lighter load than he needed to the year prior and saw improvements because of it. Similar to Popovich, his numbers were far from eye-opening. In fact, they were quite close to the starting netminder, although one must consider he played fewer games. At the end of the day, Flin won more times than they lost with Cavallin in the net which is always a good sign.
Player Grade: C+
The struggle with giving Cavallin a grade in the “B” range is the number of games he played. In only playing 20 contests, a lot of the pressure was off of him. He came in and did his job when called upon but it would be unfair to Popovich to give him back up a mark close to his.