They are the last lines of defense. The game-breakers. The missing piece that can single-handedly win a Stanley Cup Championship. I’m talking about the goaltenders! On this the first installment of Overtime’s NHL Countdown, we’ll look at the NHL’s top 10 goalies.
These guys were good enough to get a mention, but fall just outside of the NHL’s preeminent group of goalkeepers.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators: Anderson seems to always be there for Ottawa, but injuries and a questionable defense in front of him keep Anderson out of the top 10.
Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers: Much like Anderson, Mason has all the skill in the world but has been susceptible to injury and plays behind a poor defense, which isn’t a great recipe for goalie success.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: Rask would have been on this list before the season began, but his brutal start to 2015-16 (.889 SV%, 3.29 GAA) and shoddy defense hurts his status.
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: “Dubie” came out of the goaltender black hole that was the Edmonton Oilers and was thrust into the spotlight as Minnesota’s unbeatable weapon in the second half of the season, but has been merely average this season (2.56 GAA, .900 SV %).
10. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning:
While this may seem like a low rating for the man who backstopped the Lightning to a Stanley Cup Finals berth, but the combination of stiff competition and a penchant for soft goals makes 10 an appropriate spot for the Lightning’s 6’7″, 216 pound netminder. Bishop’s numbers on the season settle around a .917 SV% and a 2.35 GAA, hardly numbers to sneeze at, but also not the numbers you may expect from a guy with as big a name (or as big a frame) as Bishop. Bishop has a fantastic defense in front of him and a young offense for a Lightning team that has the makings of a Championship team in the near future so long as Bishop is between the pipes.
9. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings:
Quick has certainly had a mercurial NHL career thus far. Despite winning two Stanley Cup Championships and a 2012 Conn Smythe Award, Quick has never won a Vezina as the league’s top netminder and has put up some pedestrian numbers on occasion. But one thing is always for sure with Quick: he will always show up in the clutch. If the Kings are able to make it to the playoffs, Quick can transform into the best goalie in the league. After missing the postseason in 2014-15, the Kings and Quick are off to a fast start, as Quick has posted 5 wins, a 2.00 GAA and a .928 SV%.
8. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers:
I can hear you all now: how can 36 year-old Roberto Luongo possibly be better than a 2-time Cup Champion in Jonathan Quick and up-and-coming Ben Bishop? I’ll tell you how: consistency. Bobby Lou is always there for the Panthers game in and game out, seemingly always coming up with the big save. While he’s been snakebitten in the playoffs in his career, Luongo is a goalie that I would not want to face any day in the NHL. The mix of youth and veterans on the Florida Panthers is an interesting mix, one that Luongo hopes ends up in his first Stanley Cup.
7. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins:
As a Philadelphia Flyers fan, let me be clear here: the Marc-Andre Fleury that we are used to seeing is not the goalie that shows up for all 78 other games of the year. While “The Flower” inexplicably can never beat the Flyers, he is a stud for the Penguins. After a fall from grace from 2011-2013, Fleury has come back in a big way since then, posting 73 wins, a 2.35 GAA and a .917 SV% over his last 2 full seasons. His career numbers are underwhelming, but Fleury always keeps the Pens in games and has finally begun to shake his bad habit of disappearing in the playoffs. Now about the rest of that team…
6. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils:
The worst team to have a goalie in the top 10 right now is the New Jersey Devils. While their team is quite a mess right now, they are more than set in goal with Cory Schneider. That they were able to acquire him from the Vancouver Canucks in the first place is hard to believe, and his play on the ice has been outstanding in the Devils’ defensive trap system. Schneider’s rate stats are always stellar, averaging out at a .925 SV% and a 2.17 GAA over his career, but wins have eluded him. That may not change anytime soon with the Devils, but Schneider was definitely the very best choice to replace the legendary Martin Brodeur in the Garden State.
5. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks:
The first man in the NHL’s true upper echelon of goaltenders is 2-time Stanley Cup Champion Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford may have just been along for the ride early on in his Blackhawks career, but he has really become one of the focal points on a deep Blackhawks team. While Crawford has never played in 60 games in a season and has never posted 5 shutouts in a season, he is a consistent presence with a flashy glove hand that is a fine backstop for a fantastic Blackhawks team.
4. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals:
After 3 years as the sort-of starter in Washington, Holtby was handed the starting gig in full for the very first time last year, and he completely shattered expectations. Playing in 73 games and posting 9 shutouts, a 2.22 GAA and .923 SV% was just a prelude for Holtby, as he posted a .944 SV% and a 1.71 GAA in 13 postseason games. While the Caps lost after 2 rounds, it certainly wasn’t Holtby’s fault. With a new extension in tow and a revamped Caps squad in front of him, Holtby is a trendy Vezina pick this year.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers:
After 10 years of Henrik Lundqvist, it’s safe to say that we all know what to expect. The white-glove donning Swede has never posted fewer than 30 wins (high of 39), 3 shutouts (high of 10), a GAA higher than 2.43 (low of 1.97) or a SV% lower than .912 (high of .930). His style of playing deep in the net gives him more time to react (not that his reflexes are even close to a problem) and his playoff numbers have been outstanding since his breakout in 2011-12. You really cannot go wrong with Lundqvist; his “bad” games rarely total more than 4 goals against.
2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators:
It is fitting that the Finn Pekka Rinne plays for the Nashville Predators, because the real predator on ice is Rinne’s stingy glove hand. Rinne broke out in 2010-11 with 33 wins, a 2.12 GAA and a ridiculous .930 SV%. The 6’5″ goaltender is renowned for his glove hand as Rinne uses his trapper on plays that may not even call for it sometimes. After a serious hip injury in 2013 temporarily slowed the netminder, Rinne came back as good as new in 2014-15, garnering a Vezina trophy nomination. If the Preds are able to make the playoffs in the tough Central Division, you can expect Rinne to be front and center.
1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens:
Can words even describe how good Carey Price has been the last two years? His trophy case sure does a good job of that; last year alone saw Price win the Hart Trophy (MVP), Ted Lindsay Award (MVP as voted on by the NHLPA), William M. Jennings Trophy (lowest GAA), and of course the Vezina Trophy as best goalie in the NHL. Any time a goalie wins the MVP award, you know you’ve got something special. A former 5th overall selection by the Montreal Canadiens, which was a controversial selection at the time, Price had some inconsistent years early but has totally settled in as the league’s finest goalie. He makes the routine saves and the flashy saves, stops green shots and red shots, and is arguably the best player overall in the NHL right now.
The strength of the goaltender position in the NHL is high right now. To see former Vezina Trophy winners like Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky to be left off the list entirely just illustrates how competitive this position really is. You really can’t go wrong with anyone on this list, and the top 3 are just unreal. Sorry snipers, the NHL is now a goaltender’s league.