The role of the goaltender is arguably the most important position in the game of hockey. A team can simply not win without at least a half decent goalie. When you look at all the teams that finish near the top of the standings, they have great goaltending.
A great goaltending tandem starts with a solid number one goalie. While a few team’s do have goalies that split starts, having a true number one goalie especially helps come playoff time. Although having just one good goalie can take a team far, it helps to have a solid backup goalie to ease the load of the starter.
When it came down to choosing where the teams rank on this list, the deciding factor was the combined skill of both goaltenders on the team. For example, if a team has a great starter but a poor backup, they found themselves lower on the list.
Without further ado, here are the goaltending tandem rankings for all 31 NHL teams.
31. Vancouver Canucks
It’s crazy to think that it wasn’t too long ago that the Vancouver Canucks had arguably the best goalie duo in the league with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. For the last couple of seasons, they received decent goaltending from Ryan Miller. After losing Miller in free agency, their goaltending situation is rough, to say the least.
Their projected starter next season is Jacob Markstrom. While the big man from Sweden has been great in the minors, he’s had little success in the NHL. The Canucks addressed their goaltending in free agency by signing Anders Nilsson. While he was solid with the Buffalo Sabres last season, there’s a reason why he’s already with his sixth NHL franchise.
30. Arizona Coyotes
For the first time since 2011, the Arizona Coyotes are heading into a season with a brand new starting goalie. That starting goalie will be Antti Raanta who the Coyotes acquired in a trade with New York Rangers. Although Raanta has only been a backup so far in his NHL career, he’s been excellent. Raanta was the goalie the Coyotes had been targeting all along and he should get every opportunity to establish himself as a long term starter.
Behind Raanta will be Louis Domingue who first got his break with the Coyotes in 2014-15. While Domingue has had some good runs during his brief NHL career, he’s also has been downright terrible at times. The 2017-18 is a make or break year for Louis Domingue’s NHL career.
29. Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche were a dreadful team in 2016-17, and their goaltending didn’t do much to help. They entered last season with Semyon Varlamov as their starter, but he ended up missing half the season due to injury. In the games that he did get into, Varlamov was terrible, posting the by far the worst numbers of his career.
When Varlamov went down, the team turned to Calvin Pickard. While Pickard showed some promise, it’s all a moot point as he was selected by Vegas in the Expansion Draft. To replace Pickard, the Avalanche signed Jonathan Bernier in free agency. While Bernier had a solid season for the Ducks last year, his numbers are sure to inflate playing in front a poor Avalanche defense corps.
28. Philadelphia Flyers
While Philadelphia Flyers look to have a promising future in goal, their current situation is pretty bleak. This offseason the Flyers lost their starting goaltender of the past four seasons in Steve Mason. As his replacement, the Flyers signed veteran Brian Elliott. While Elliott has shown he can be a solid goaltender, he’s not a goalie that will win you many games by himself.
Behind Elliott will be Michal Neuvirth, who will be entering his third season with the Flyers. While there was a time where it looked like Neuvirth had a chance to be a full-time starter in the NHL, it’s clear now that he’s more suited to a backup role. Hopefully, for Philadelphia, Neuvirth can have a bounce back year as he struggled last season with a save percentage sub .900.
27. Carolina Hurricanes
For the past decade, the Carolina Hurricanes have been led in goal by Cam Ward. While Ward has had a fantastic career, as he’s gotten older he’s had trouble avoiding injury. With Ward’s injury problems, the Hurricanes knew they needed to find their goaltender of the future. In 2015, the Hurricanes acquired Eddie Lack from Vancouver hoping he could be their guy. Well after two dismal seasons, Lack clearly didn’t cut it.
This past offseason Carolina once again hopes they found Cam Ward’s successor when they acquired Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. While Darling has proven to be more than capable backup in his brief NHL career, his sample size is fairly small. There is a chance Carolina found their future long-term starting goaltender. There is also a chance they just found another Eddie Lack.
26. Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets made a bold move heading into the 2016-17 season when they sent down their long time starter Ondrej Pavelec. They decided that second-year goalie Connor Hellebuyck was their best option. As his rather mediocre numbers showed, Hellebuyck just wasn’t ready for full-time duty.
With Pavelec in the minors, the only other goalie the Jets could turn to last season was a borderline NHL backup in Michael Hutchinson. This season the Jets are giving Hellebuyck some tougher competition with the acquisition of Steve Mason. It’s not like Mason was lights out in Philadelphia, but he might exactly what is needed in order for Hellebuyck to step up his game.
25. Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres goaltending situation isn’t a stable one, to say the least. Ever since Ryan Miller left in 2014 they have been looking for a replacement. The one goalie they were counting on to carry the load was Robin Lehner. Although Lehner’s numbers in his first season with Sabres in 2015-16 were good, he was relegated to just 24 games due to injury.
This past season Lehner was finally able to stay healthy for a full season and had some good stats considering the defense he played behind. Lehner needs to once again stay healthy in 2017-18 if the Sabres are going to lock him up long term. The Sabres also brought back Chad Johnson in free agency who is one of the more underrated goalies in the league.
24. Detroit Red Wings
The future of Detroit Red Wings goaltending is a bit unclear, to say the least. Last season their supposed starter of the future, Petr Mrazek, had a dreadful season. It was such a terrible season that the Wings left him exposed in the Expansion Draft. On the other hand, Jimmy Howard, who at one time looked like he ran himself out of town, put up the best numbers of his career.
The 2017-18 season is going to be a crucial year for deciding the future of the Detroit Red Wings goaltending. If Mrazek drops the ball once again, it will be time for Wings to start looking at other options.
23. Tampa Bay Lightning
The 2017-18 season will mark a new era for the Tampa Bay Lightning when it comes to goaltending. For the past four-plus seasons the Lightning received excellent goaltending from Ben Bishop. However, they have now handed reigns over to Andrei Vasilevskiy. The young Russian did get his first taste of what it takes to be a starter in 2016-17 by starting a career high 50 games. While his play was fairly solid, Tampa is going to rely on him, even more, this season.
Tampa Bay would probably be higher on this list had they had a better option behind Vasilevskiy. Last season the Lightning acquired veteran Peter Budaj to become their backup. While Budaj was one of the feel good stories last year while playing for the L.A Kings, his numbers greatly regressed in Tampa Bay. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Lightning are looking for a better backup option before next season ends.
22. St. Louis Blues
Before last season, it had been years since the St. Louis Blues had a clear cut number one goalie. In 2016-17, the Blues finally decided to give the starting role to just one goalie, and that goalie was Jake Allen. The New Brunswick native played in a career high 61 games, and proved he had what it took to carry a heavy workload. If Allen’s play continues to trend upward, he might be a top ten goalie in the NHL sooner than later.
Behind Allen, the Blues have veteran Carter Hutton, who is entering his second season with the team. While Hutton has put decent numbers throughout his NHL career, the Blues would be in trouble had they had to rely on heavily on him.
21. Calgary Flames
Ever since Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013, the Calgary Flames have tried many different goaltending experiments with little success. The Flames newest goaltending experiment is Mike Smith, who they acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes this past Summer. The Flames are hoping that veteran Smith is their answer to their goaltending woes, at least in the short term. While Smith had a couple of great seasons in the desert, he’s also had some terrible ones as well.
While adding Smith was an upgrade to their goaltending, they definitely downgraded when it comes to the backup position. For their backup position, the Flames acquired Eddie Lack from the Carolina Hurricanes. Lack was supposed to be the guy in a Carolina, but his play was so inconsistent, he even spent some time in the minors last season.
20. Ottawa Senators
It’s safe to say the Ottawa Senators probably wouldn’t have got a sniff of the playoffs last season if was for the team’s back stoppers. However, things didn’t go exactly as planned when it comes to the Senators goaltending. Only a couple of months into the season, starting goaltender Craig Anderson left the team in order to be by his wife’s side as she battled cancer.
With Anderson gone, the Senators had to rely heavily on journeyman goaltender Mike Condon. As it would turn out, Condon saved the season for Ottawa as he was rock solid in goal. As much as things shouldn’t have worked out for the Senators goaltending wise last season, it miraculously did. The Senators are going to need another great season from their goaltending tandem if they want to make a return to the post-season.
19. Chicago Blackhawks
For the past seven seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks have been led in goal by Corey Crawford. While he tends to allow the odd soft goal, Crawford is one of the most underrated goalies in the entire league. While he’s not super flashy, he’s one of the most dependable goalies there is. He has a very calm demeanor and always seems to step up his game when it counts.
The Blackhawks would have been higher on this list had they found a more capable goalie to backup Crawford. After losing a quality backup in Scott Darling, Chicago acquired Anton Forsberg to be his replacement. While Forsberg has put up some excellent numbers in the minors, his NHL stats are absolutely atrocious. In ten career NHL games, he sports a 4.02 GAA with .879 save percentage.
18. New York Islanders
When it comes to goaltending the New York Islanders have not had the best luck, to say the least. Rick DiPietro could have finally been the man in Long Island, but he seemed to be made out of glass. The Islanders have experimented with many different goalies in recent years with not a whole lot of success. However, their current goalie tandem isn’t terrible.
The Islanders current duo consists of veterans Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak. Griess honed his skills in Europe and the minors before finally getting his shot to be a starting goalie in the NHL with the Islanders. While he’s had a few bumps along the road in his two seasons with the team, he’s been solid for the most part. Halak struggled a bit in 2016-17, but he stepped up his game at the end of the season. Entering a contract year, Halak should be a solid number two for the Islanders.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs
Throughout their history, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made some questionable moves when it comes to addressing their goaltending. They have given up huge assets for goaltenders who ended up being failures. In the Summer of 2016, the Leafs made another bold move when they acquired Frederik Andersen. However, unlike all their past failures, it seems like Leafs found a good one in Andersen.
While Andersen’s numbers in 2016-17 weren’t out of this world, they were more than respectable. His numbers would have been better, had the Leafs not allowed the third most shots per game. The Leafs don’t have the greatest backup in Curtis McElhinney, but that doesn’t matter as Andersen should be a workhorse for Toronto.
16. Boston Bruins
It’s hard to imagine where the Boston Bruins might be if wasn’t for the amazing goalies they’ve had for the past decade-plus. For the past five seasons, the Bruins have employed one the NHL’s top goaltenders in Tuukka Rask. He has put some incredible numbers with the Bruins all while being a workhorse for the team. In his four full seasons as a starter for Boston, Rask has averaged 64 games a season,
With Rask playing as many games as he does, the backup role in Boston isn’t that important. However, the Bruins are in need of an upgrade in the position. This upcoming season the Bruins most are most likely to go once again with Anton Khudobin as their backup. Khudobin was mediocre at best last season. Fortunately for the Bruins, they have a couple up and coming goalies who are ready to snatch Khudobin’s spot.
15. Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers made some questionable moves this offseason and it’s hard to predict exactly which direction the team is heading. If there is one part the team that should be consistently solid, it’s in net. Last season the Panthers went with a true 50/50 split with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer.
With Luongo is nearing the age of forty, one would think he would start to decline. However, Luongo has so far defied father time and is as reliable as ever. The often injured James Reimer, started a career-high 42 games in 2016-17, all while putting up the best numbers of his career. Neither Luongo or Reimer are the answer for Florida’s long-term goaltending future, but they are currently as solid a tandem as there is in the NHL.
14. Dallas Stars
In recent years the Dallas Stars at times have been one of the better teams in the league. However, the one thing that has held them back from taking a step to the next level is their inconsistent goaltending. The Stars did their best to address the problem this off season by acquiring Ben Bishop and locking him up long term.
There is no reason why the Dallas Stars shouldn’t be excited about their new starter. If the Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t dealing with salary cap issues, there is no way they let Bishop go in the first place. The big netminder might just make the Stars fans forget the last few dreadful years of goaltending. Behind Bishop, the Stars have Kari Lehtonen. While Lehtonen hasn’t been the most reliable goalie for the Stars, he should be among the best backup goalies in the league next season.
13. Los Angeles Kings
In 2016-17, the Los Angeles Kings were blessed with great goaltending from an unlikely source in Peter Budaj. When Budaj didn’t quite cut it they acquired Ben Bishop. However both Bujaj and Bishop are no longer Kings, and L.A will once again rely on a healthy Jonathan Quick.
While Quick has continued to record some impressive stats, his amount of starts for the Kings should be cut down in 2017-18. For the sake of Quick’s health, they are going to have to rely more on their backup Jeff Zatkoff. Although the 2016-17 season is one that Zatkoff would like to forget, this season should be a bounce-back year for him as he is longer expected to be the team’s savior.
12. New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils have been a pretty abysmal team for quite some time now. It’s hard to imagine how much worse they would be if it wasn’t for their goaltender Cory Schneider. While Schneider had arguably his worst statistical NHL season in 2016-17, his track record proves that he’s an elite goalie.
Cory Schneider has been a workhorse in his time with the Devils, but when the rare occasion he’s not in goal, New Jersey has Keith Kinkaid to turn to. While Kinkaid won’t turn too many heads, he’s been a steady backup for the Devils the past three seasons. If the Devil’s can start putting more pucks in the net, their goaltending is more than capable of taking them to the playoffs
11. San Jose Sharks
Martin Jones was a great backup in Los Angeles for two seasons. However, it wasn’t a guarantee that he could be a reliable starter when he joined the Sharks in 2015-16. Any doubt that Jones couldn’t be a starter in the NHL was completely thrown out the window after his first season with the Sharks. In 65 games Jones posted a stellar 2.27 GAA with a solid .918 save percentage.
In 2016-17, he solidified his spot as San Jose’s starter by once again being a workhorse appearing in 65 games. Behind Jones, the Sharks have another gem in Aaron Dell. After honing his skills in college and the minors, Dell had a phenomenal rookie season with the Sharks. If Dell can keep his play up, it won’t be too long before he will get a chance to be a starter in the NHL.
10. Vegas Golden Knights
Heading into their inaugural season, there is a good chance that the Vegas Golden Knights will have the worst statistics when it comes to goaltending. The team just doesn’t have a whole lot of skill and will be losing more than their fair share of games. However, that doesn’t mean the Knights don’t have a couple of good goalies. In fact, their goaltending might be the strongest aspect of their team.
Arguably the best player on the entire Golden Knights roster is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The former first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft had played his entire thirteen NHL season career with the Pittsburgh Penguins prior to joining Vegas. Fleury should be a solid veteran presence and could steal a few games for the team. Behind Fleury, the Knights have Calvin Pickard who has shown some promise the past few seasons playing on a poor Colorado Avalanche team.
9. Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks have pretty much been blessed with great goaltending ever since they entered the league in 1993. From Guy Hebert to Jean-Sébastien Giguère to Jonas Hiller, it seems like the Ducks could do no wrong. Their current goaltending tandem might be as good as the franchise has ever had.
The 2016-17 season was a test to see if John Gibson was ready to handle the load for Ducks. Gibson passed the test with flying colors. He finished top five in the league when it comes to both goals against average and save percentage. As a backup, the Ducks signed veteran Ryan Miller who will push Gibson to be even better.
8. Edmonton Oilers
For years the Edmonton Oilers were stockpiling young talented forwards without addressing their poor defense and goaltending. While their defense is still far from perfect, their goaltending is as solid as it gets. In 2015, the Oilers took a gamble when the acquired career backup Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers. So far the gamble has paid huge dividends for Edmonton.
Talbot’s first season with the Oilers in 2015-16 wasn’t out of this world, but he still showed signs of great things to come. In 2016-17, Talbot took his game to another level. He played in an astounding 73 games, all while improving his previous year’s numbers. The Oilers great goaltending doesn’t stop with Talbot as they have an excellent backup in Laurent Brossoit. After years of trying it looks like Oilers have finally found the perfect tandem.
7. Nashville Predators
While everyone knew the Nashville Predators were a good team, nobody would have predicted they would make it all the way to last seasons Stanley Cup Finals. While Pekka Rinne didn’t have a particularly good regular season, he more than made up for it with a tremendous playoff performance. In 22 playoff games, Rinne posted a terrific 1.96 GAA and a stellar .930 save percentage.
The Predators have had some great backup goaltenders in the past, but their current backup Juuse Saros might just be the best they’ve ever had. During his rookie season in 2016-17, Saros put up even better numbers than Rinne. It seems like Nashville is set in goal for the present and future.
6. Minnesota Wild
During the 2013-14 season, the Minnesota Wild’s goaltending situation was a complete mess having started five different goalies. The 2015-16 season looked like it was going to be just as bad until they found a savior in Devan Dubnyk. Nobody expected Dubnyk to save the Wild’s season considering his NHL career was on shaky ground only a year prior, but that is exactly what he did.
After an insane first season with Wild, Dubnyk has continued his stellar play. In a few short years, he has gone from being out of NHL to being an elite goalie in the league. Although Dubnyk is capable of playing 65-plus games a season it doesn’t hurt the Wild that still has a decent second option in Alex Stalock.
5. New York Rangers
Minus just a couple of seasons in the past twenty-five years, the New York Rangers have been lucky to have just two full-time starting goalies. One of those goalies was Mike Richter, while the other is their current starter Henrik Lundqvist. The Sweden Native broke into the NHL with the Rangers during the 2005-06 season and has been solid ever since.
Although Lundqvist has a proven track record, the 2016-17 season was the worst statistical season of his career. That is why it’s important that the Rangers have a backup goalie who can lighten the load for Lundqvist. While Ondrej Pavelec’s number weren’t anything special playing the last five seasons in Winnipeg, he should perform better now that he won’t be under so much pressure.
4. Montreal Canadiens
When you think of the Montreal Canadiens, the one player you probably think of first is Carey Price. It’s not hard to see why as Price is arguably the best goalie in the league. In 2016-17, Price sported a 2.23 GAA with .923 save percentage. The fact that some experts considered it a down year for Price just shows how elite he is.
The man backing up Price in Montreal is Al Montoya. While Montoya never quite lived up to his the potential he showed as a former 6th overall draft selection, he has become one of the most underrated backups in the league. Montreal’s playoff hopes in 2017-18 will once again come down to the play of its goalies. If Carey’s Price’s resume is any indication, a playoff birth is definitely in the cards.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
After years of being a bottom feeder in the NHL, the Columbus Blue have iced a more than respectable team the last few years. The one player who deserves a lot of credit for the team’s rise in the standings is their starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Since coming over to Columbus in 2013, he’s been lights out for the Jackets. In 2012-13, his very first season in Columbus, Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.
In 2016-17, Bobrovsky took his game to a whole other level. In 63 games, he posted a 2.07 GAA with a .931 save percentage. Those numbers were more than enough for him to win his second Vezina. Behind Bobrovsky, the Jackets have one of the youngest backups in the NHL, in twenty-three-year-old Joonas Korpisalo. Although the Finland Native wasn’t overly impressive in 2016-17, he should get better with more experience
2. Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals have been one of best team’s in the entire league for a long time, but for whatever reason, they just can’t take the next step when it comes to the playoffs. The one thing you can’t blame is their goaltending, particularly their long time starting goalie Braden Holtby.
Not only has Holtby put up some amazing regular season stats, he also has done the same in the post season. In 30 career playoff games, Holtby has an excellent 2.00 GAA with an outstanding .930 save percentage. You really can’t ask for better numbers from a goalie. The Capitals great goaltending doesn’t stop with Holtby as they also have one of top backup goalies in Philipp Grubauer
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
The 2017-18 season will be the dawn of a new era for the Pittsburgh Penguins when it comes to their situation in goal. For the first time in over a decade, the team will no longer be able to call on Marc-Andre Fleury. Normally a team losing an arguably top ten goalie in the league would be a disaster. However, the Penguins are fortunate to employ an even better goalie than Fleury in Matt Murray.
Matt Murray may have only played just four professional seasons in his career, but everywhere he has played he has put up some phenomenal numbers. The Penguins two consecutive Stanley Cup victories might not have been possible if not for Murray. If he’s not already, Murray will be considered one of the few elite goalies in the league as early as next season. While the Penguins new backup Antti Niemi struggled in his two seasons in Dallas, he should thrive with Penguins in his reduced role.
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