Goaltender is the most important position in the NHL, but it’s also the hardest to properly evaluate.
So many factors go into the success of a goaltender, ranging from the quality of the team in front of him, the system used by the head coach and the overall talent of the player. While we now have many trusted advanced stats for skaters, the same cannot be said for netminders.
That said, here’s my take on the best goaltenders in hockey. Check out the links at the bottom to view our center and winger rankings.
1) Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Price won the Hart and Vezina trophies last season and was fully deserving of both. He led the league with a .933 save percentage and allowed two goals or fewer in 44 games. The Canadiens weren’t among the league’s highest-scoring teams and didn’t rate well in a lot of puck possession metrics, but they still finished second in the Atlantic Division because of Price’s exceptional and consistent play.
2) Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
The Bruins, because of injuries to just about every defenseman, among other factors, didn’t defend as well last season as they have throughout Claude Julien’s tenure as head coach. They still finished eighth in goals against because Rask was the team’s best player. Despite playing a career-high 70 games, the Finnish netminder posted a .922 save percentage and allowed two or fewer goals in 45 games. The Bruins lost 15 of those games, though.
Forty goaltenders have played 4,000 or more minutes since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, and none of them have a better save percentage than Rask’s .926.
3) Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Lundqvist is as reliable as you can ask for when it comes to goalies. He missed a bunch of games with an injury last season, yet he still managed to win 30 games (including five shutouts) and post a .922 save percentage. Lundqvist was even better in the playoffs and helped lead the Rangers to the conference finals.
4) Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Schneider wasn’t a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, which was a bit ridiculous. He had the third-best save percentage (.925) despite facing the third-most shots of any goalie last season. The Devils scored the third-fewest goals and struggled to consistently possess the puck, but Schneider kept them in a lot of games with his excellence in net.
5) Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Holtby led all goalies with 73 games played last season and still posted a .923 save percentage. He’s very calm and composed in net and rarely lets in bad goals. His postseason pedigree also is quite impressive, evidenced by his astounding .944 save percentage in 13 playoff games last season.
6) Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
The Panthers are knocking on the playoff door in the Eastern Conference and Luongo might be the one to push them in. He had a .922 save percentage last season for a young Florida team learning how to win. Luongo still is a top-tier netminder and will keep the Panthers in a lot of games, especially when their offense battles inconsistency as it has for the past couple of years.
7) Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobrovsky is athletic and has a ton of talent. He’s capable of playing at an elite level, as seen during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign when he won the Vezina Trophy. One of the few concerns is durability because he’s battled some injuries over the last two seasons. Bobrovsky, if healthy, will give Columbus a good chance to earn one of the wild card playoff spots in the East.
8) Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Quick has won two Stanley Cup titles with the Kings, and as a result, he’s often regarded as one of the league’s best goalies. That said, his regular-season stats are pretty average. His save percentage hasn’t been above .918 since the 2011-12 campaign, which isn’t very good considering the Kings have been an elite puck possession/defensive team under head coach Darryl Sutter.
When Quick is at the top of his game, he can be unbeatable. But too often he allows really soft goals and fails to play at a high level on a consistent basis.
9) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Fleury held together a Penguins team decimated by injuries last season with a .920 save percentage and 34 wins. It was the first time he reached the .920-mark since the 2007-08 season.
The knock on Fleury has been his postseason failures, which is entirely fair given his struggles from 2010 through 2014. However, he posted a .927 save percentage in Pittsburgh’s first-round series against the New York Rangers last season and still lost four games. Fleury wasn’t the problem, and if he continues to improve — he’s still only 30 years old — the Penguins will be a very dangerous team in 2015-16.
10) Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Rinne is the backbone of the Predators, and his importance to the team was magnified when he missed most of the 2013-14 season with an injury. He returned last season and posted a .922 save percentage and led the Predators back to the playoffs from the league’s most competitive division.
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