Goaltenders are a unique bunch. They talk to their goal posts and dress themselves in a particular order. Many of them have rituals that they adhere to everyday. One year a goalie is competing for NHL hardware and then the next year he is on injured reserve, or riding the bench while the backup steals his job. Marc-Andre Fleury knows how that feels. Though, regardless of circumstances, there is nothing like a good goalie discussion.
During the offseason some goaltenders were moved to other teams, while other goalies will still need to battle for their time in the crease. Others have spent significant time on injured reserve and frankly, have a question mark looming around their name. Jaroslav Halak recently put on an outstanding performance at the World Cup of Hockey, helping Team Europe reach the final. Carey Price played only 12 games in 2015-16 and whether he can regain his MVP form is still a question mark. Having said that, there are plenty of variables going into the 2016-17 season when ranking the top 30 starters. In this article, when ranking the top 30 starters we take into consideration overall skill level, last season’s statistics, injuries, contract status and competition from their counterpart.
30 Ondrej Pavelec/Connor Hellebuyck/Michael Hutchinson - Winnipeg Jets
Will the real starter place stand up? If you asked anyone who is the starter for the Winnipeg Jets, you may get one of the following names: Connor Hellebuyck, Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec still has one season left on his contract and Mike Hutchinson was signed to a contract extension. Pavelec appeared in 33 games last year and tallied 13 wins, 13 loses, 4 overtime losses and 1 shutout. His save percentage dropped below his career average to .904 and his goals against average was 2.78.
29 Cam Ward/Eddie Lack – Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes were ranked 18th in goaltending last year. Given the scope of the team and the lackluster performance from Eric Staal, it feels as if their goaltending should have been worse. Eddie Lack was not good enough to take over the number one job in Carolina last season. He played 34 games and tallied 12 wins, 14 loses, 6 overtime loses and 2 shutouts. His save percentage dropped to .901 and his goals against was 2.81. Those numbers are simply not cutting it. Cam Ward had slightly better numbers. In 52 games he tallied 23 wins, 17 loses, 10 overtime loses and 1 shutout. His save percentage was .909 and his goals against average was 2.41.
28 Mike Smith - Arizona Coyotes
Mike Smith is 34 years of age and had it rough the last couple of seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. He has a cap hit of $ 5.6 million with two years left, so he is not getting traded in all likelihood. This basically means the Coyotes are stuck with him and his contract. His last winning season came in 2011-12 where he posted 38 wins for the Coyotes. Since then he has posted 73 wins in a 188 games played. That is a win percentage of .388 which is mostly due to playing with a below average team. Although, Smith has also been dealing with injuries which does not help his stock.
27 Semyon Varlamov - Colorado Avalanche
Semyon Varlamov had consistency issues with the Colorado Avalanche all of last season. He has played 57 games in each of the last two seasons winning 28 and 27 respectively. His goals against average was quite high at 2.81 last season and his goals against average has increased in each of the past three seasons while his save percentage has declined. Seeing as Colorado’s struggled with their defensive structure, it’s no wonder Varlamov has played poorly.
26 Sergei Bobrovsky - Columbus Blue Jackets
Like Semyon Varlamov, it was a rough season for Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets, especially since they were expected to be one of the most improved going into the 2015-16 season. Instead, they finished near the bottom of the standings. Bobrovsky is 27 years of age and has two years left on his deal with a cap hit of $7.4 million. He spent two stints on injured reserve due to a groin injury. In fact, he only played in 37 games tallying 15 wins, 19 loses and 1 overtime loss. His goals against average was 2.75 while his save percentage sat at a low .908.
25 Cam Talbot - Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers found themselves a reliable number 1 goaltender, but he can only do so much until the team improves. Guess what? The Oilers will do better this year. They will not blow your expectations out of the water, but they will definitely have a better product on the ice. Having Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic and Adam Larsson is proof of this. Cam Talbot appeared in 56 games last season for the Oilers. He tallied 21 wins, 27 loses, 5 overtime loses and 3 shutouts. His save percentage was a respectable .917 even with a goals against average of 2.55.
24 Robin Lehner - Buffalo Sabres
Robin Lehner only appeared in 21 games last season after sustaining an ankle injury in the Buffalo Sabres home opener. Quite unfortunate. In those 21 games he tallied 5 wins, 9 losses, 5 overtime loses and 1 shutout. Ironically, even with his low win total, he still managed to put up an impressive .924 save percentage. His goals against average was 2.47. The Buffalo Sabres ranked quite low in most categories. They were 25th in possession and 25th in team offense. This season may look surprisingly different. The team looks to have a few more pieces up front and with Jack Eichel having a year under his belt, look for him to potentially be a 30 goal and 70-point man. Even on defense the team has gotten better. The addition of Dmitry Kulikov will certainly help in the back end.
23 Steve Mason - Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers’ Steve Mason played well down the stretch last season. In 12 games he won 8 games with a 1.88 goals against average. The reality with Steve Mason is that he is Steve Mason. He is often very inconsistent and never fairs well in the playoffs. He let in a terrible goal from downtown last postseason. Regardless, let us look at his performance last season. He played 54 games and tallied 23 wins, 19 loses, 10 overtime loses and 4 shutouts. His save percentage was .918 with a goals against average of 2.51.
22 Ryan Miller - Vancouver Canucks
21 Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi
What can we say about the Dallas Stars? They were number one in team offense in the entire league, had the 4th best power play but ranked 19th in goaltending. Their team is an offense juggernaut. However, it appears as those their goalies are not cutting it. Is Kari Lehtonen the starter for Dallas? He appeared in 43 games last season tallying 25 wins, 10 loses, 2 overtime loses and 2 shutouts. His save percentage was a low .906 with a high goals against average of 2.76. On one hand we have Antti Niemi who appeared in 48 games for Dallas and tallied 25 wins, 13 loses, 7 overtime loses and 3 shutouts. His save percentage was also quite low at .905 and his goals against average was slightly lower than Lehtonen at 2.67.
20 Frederik Andersen - Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen played 43 games for the Anaheim Ducks tallying 22 wins, 9 loses, 7 overtime loses and 3 shutouts. His save percentage was .919 and his goals against average was 2.30. Those are great numbers. The Ducks decided to go with Gibson and for good reason, he is the future. However, Andersen as good as he is, goes from a Stanley Cup contender to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is important to note that Andersen has been sidelined with an upper-body injury. As a result, he did not participate in the World Cup for Team Europe. He might be available for the beginning of the regular season.
19 Petr Mrazek - Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings lost Pavel Datsyuk. It seems like after this the Wings will truly trail downwards. But, with all their recent additions it may not actually happen. The Wings added Frans Nielsen as the number two pivot, Thomas Vanek—who believes Minnesota was just not the right fit for him—and Steve Ott, who will provide some sand paper. We know the team will put up goals, but the true issues exist in the back end. The blue line is not as strong as the good old days and the goaltending needs to be better.
18 Devan Dubnyk - Minnesota Wild
17 Brian Elliott - Calgary Flames
16 Craig Anderson - Ottawa Senators
Craig Anderson might be overlooked as a high end goalie, especially at the tender age of 35 years old. He appeared in 60 games last season tallying 31 wins, 23 loses, 5 overtime loses and 4 shutouts. His save percentage was close to his career average at .916, while his goals against average was 2.78. However, there are significant reasons for him and Ottawa fans to be excited. First, they have a new coach in Guy Boucher. He is a major upgrade on former coach Dave Cameron. Also, they have will have Dion Phaneuf on the blue line for an entire year, assuming of course he is healthy.
In all likelihood, Boucher will set up a very sound defensive system that will allow Phaneuf to excel and help out their goaltenders. Unfortunately, Hammond and Anderson were left out to dry in 2015-16. Look for Anderson to put up slightly better numbers in the range of 30-33 wins and a slightly better save percentage and lower goals against.
15 Jake Allen - St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues traded away Brian Elliott and in doing so gave Jake Allen the number one job. The 26-year-old netminder looks promising. He has played a total of 99 career NHL games for the Blues. In those 99 games he has tallied 57 wins, 26 loses, 7 overtime loses and 11 shutouts. His save percentage last season was .920 with a goals against average of 2.35. Allen ranked 7th in shootout save percentage with a .793. Great numbers for a potential starter. However, it is important to note that Allen is protected in St. Louis under the Ken Hitchcock system.
14 Jaroslav Halak - New York Islanders
If we compare the contract cap hits of both goalies on the Islanders, then it is evident that Jaroslav Halak is the number one goalie for the New York Islanders. Halak has a $ 4.5 million cap hit while Thomas Greiss has a $ 1.5 million cap hit. Unfortunately for Halak, he had a lot of injury problems last season which opened the door for Greiss. He played so well that it seems likely both will have split duty for the upcoming 2016-17 season. If Halak is healthy, he will no doubt be the clear cut number one, but Greiss gives the Islanders security in goal. In 36 games played during the regular season, Halak tallied 18 wins, 13 loses, 4 overtime loses and 3 shootout loses. His save percentage was .919 with a goals against average of 2.30.
13 Tuukka Rask - Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask had a sub-par performance last season. The Boston Bruins used to have one of the toughest defensive cores to play against. Now that players like Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg are gone—and with Chara slowing down—Rask is finding it difficult facing more rubber. In the last three seasons he has played 58 games or more each year. His save percentage has gone down each season while his goals against average has gone up. The Bruins desperately need help on the back-end.
12 Cory Schneider - New Jersey Devils
Cory Schneider is an excellent goaltender who does not get the credit he deserves playing in New Jersey. He could easily be one of the top 5 goalies in the league. The New Jersey Devils were 30th in team offense last season and 29th in possession. Ironically they had the 9th best power play. Schneider played in 58 games tallying 27 wins, 25 loses, 6 overtime loses and 4 shutouts. His save percentage was an amazing .924 while his goals against average was only 2.15. Those are great numbers. They also have some up and coming players like Pavel Zacha who could easily play on the top line.
11 Roberto Loungo - Florida Panthers
Roberto Luongo finished fourth in voting for the Vezina last season. The fact that James Reimer had been signed to a contract simply means one thing… time share in the crease. This signing is more of a security blanket for the Panthers in case Loungo gets injured. He is getting old as he is turning 37 this coming year but he still managed to rack up 35 wins and boast a .922 save percentage. Not too bad for an old man. The Florida Panthers made significant upgrades to their team, especially on the back-end signing players like Keith Yandle and Jason Demers.
The Panthers have set the bar higher and expect to challenge for the Eastern Conference title. Even with the addition of James Reimer to help the aging netminder, Roberto Loungo will need to put up similar numbers if the Panthers are to make in far in the playoffs.
10 Matt Murray/Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins
9 Henrik Lundqvist - New York Rangers
The King Henrik Lundqvist had some problems last year but really does not mean too much. He is still an elite goaltender and will play 60 plus games put up 30 plus wins. Last season Lundqvist played in 65 games tallying 35 wins, 21 loses, 7 overtime loses and 4 shutouts. His save percentage was .920 and his goals against average was 2.48. His playoff numbers were nothing to boast about, only winning one game and losing three in five appearances. His goals against average in those games… 4.39. Yikes! But we all know that was not his fault.
8 Corey Crawford – Chicago Blackhawks
It is fortunate for Corey Crawford that he plays on such a well built team. He has 30 or more wins in every full season he has played in with a .924 save percentage in each of the last two seasons. The biggest problem in Chicago has always been the salary cap situation and considering how Crawford is making $6 million, it is amazing that they have not acquired a cheaper goalie. Regardless, Crawford is still the man in goal for the Blackhawks.
7 Jonathan Quick - Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick has been the man in Los Angeles for quite some time. Since 2009, Quick has won two Stanley Cups and the Conn Smythe Trophy while playing for the Kings. In 2015-16 he posted 40 wins, 23 loses, 5 overtime loses and 5 shutouts in 68 starts. He also posted a .918 save percentage and a 2.22 goals against average. The loss of Milan Lucic may not necessarily hurt the Kings. But they need to figure out what they are doing with Dustin Brown. The Kings also have had some unfortunate issues arise with the likes of Mike Richards and Slava Voynov.
6 Pekka Rinne - Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne played in 66 games last season and tallied 34 wins, 21 loses, 10 overtime loses and 4 shutouts. Rinne has dealt with some nagging injuries and some inconsistent play the last few seasons. If healthy his numbers will certainly increase and the Nashville Predators realize this. They made some excellent trades which included moving Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Ryan Johansen and trading Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban. Overall the team has gotten much better.
5 John Gibson - Anaheim Ducks
4 Martin Jones - San Jose Sharks
Martin Jones was lighting in a bottle for the San Jose Sharks. He appeared in 65 games last season tallying 37 wins, 23 loses, 4 overtime loses and 6 shutouts. His save percentage was .918 and his goals against average 2.27. His postseason numbers are even more impressive and what caused the big jump in our rankings. He appeared in 24 games and took his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. He won 14 games, lost 10 and posted 3 shutouts. His save percentage was an outstanding 9.23 and his goals against average was a low 2.16. It was a great first season as the number one goalie in the shark tank. He is 6’4 and 26 years of age.
3 Ben Bishop – Tampa Bay Lighting
The Tampa Bay Lighting have a very interesting situation on their hands. They are trying to squeeze all their talented young players under the cap ceiling while maintaining their dominance in goal. The problem with that is Bishop carries a $5.95 million cap hit. Bishop clearly enters the season as the starter. He appeared in 61 games last season tallying 35 wins, 21 loses, 4 over times and 6 shutouts. His save percentage was an outstanding .926 and his goals against average was a low 2.06. But, let us look at his counter part.
2 Braden Holtby - Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby was absolutely dynamite last season, but he is not Carey Price. Holtby’s season last year was almost as dominant as Price’s the previous year. He racked up 48 wins playing on a far superior team. But even with all those wins, he was not ranked in the top 20 for shutouts by a goaltender. Washington may also decide to lighten up Holtby’s workload and save him for the playoffs. Do not expect him to pick up 48 wins again. In 2015-16, Holtby appeared in 66 games tallying 48 wins, 9 loses, 7 overtime loses and 3 shutouts. His save percentage was .922 and his goals against average was 2.20. During the last two postseasons, he tallied a combined 12 wins posting about a .924 save percentage with roughly 1.72 goals against average and 3 shutouts.
1 Carey Price - Montreal Canadiens
Price is a better goalie than Holtby, and plays on an inferior team. In 2014-15, Carey Price had a legendary season. He became the first netminder to win the Hart Trophy since Jose Theodore did it back in 2002. He also won the Vezina. Last season, the Montreal Canadiens looked like they were destined to make the playoffs and win the Eastern Conference title. However, after about 10 games that dream was shattered into a million pieces as Carey Price was injured. He appeared in 12 games and tallied 10 wins, 2 loses and 2 shutouts. His save percentage was .934 and his goals against average was 2.06.
In 2014-15 he put up similar numbers winning, 44 games in 66 games played. However, all the hopes and dreams of every Habs fan died immediately when Price went down. In a twisted way, it helped everyone see the true nature behind the team. There were problems in the locker room and the team could not find any steam. P.K. Subban was traded. No one really could have predicted that happening. Michel Therrien could not maximize his roster.
Simply put, without Carey Price, the Habs were helpless. It will be interesting to see how the 2016-17 season unfolds. As bad as the Habs were last season, with Price back, they are immediately contenders in the Eastern Conference.
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