NHL Playoffs 2012: Power Ranking the Remaining Goaltenders
With the first round of the NHL Playoffs in the books, the nerves and jitters that come with playing in such a high intensity event with such massive stakes will begin to leave the players. This of course affects everyone, but never is it more glaringly apparent than in the play of the most important player on the ice – the goalies.
The first round saw equal parts excellence and failures, giving a balance between offense and defense for any fan to enjoy. One series could be decided by which goalie would make the first mistake and in another who would make the fewest.
Often times the teams can get out of the first round on adrenaline alone. The second is much different. The pretenders are weeded out as experience and quality count for a lot more than gumption and guile.
These power rankings are based on three factors: how well the goalie played in the first round, how well he can be expected to play in the second and the importance he has to his team in making sure they reach the conference finals.
Here is how that all works out.
8. Ilya Bryzgalov
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The most undisputable ranking in this entire list is this one right here. Bryzgalov was by far the worst goalie of the first round both by stats and the eye test. He had the fourth worst GAA of all goalies these playoffs only bettering both Pittsburgh keepers and his own backup. The worst part is you probably could argue half the goals he conceded were ones he should have stopped.
He made his offense carry the team through every single game, with his best performance until the clincher giving up three goals twice.
Bryzgalov was suppose to be the answer to the Flyers netminding woes, something that many attribute to their recent lack of success in winning the Stanley Cup. However, he seems to follow the trend of coming up short when it matters most that curses all goalies who put on the orange sweater.
The bright side for Flyers fans is he had his best outing thus far in the final game against the Pens. He gave up only one goal in their 5-1, suggesting he may be figuring this thing out.
Ultimately though the Flyers don’t really need him to be perfect as evident by the last round. Their offense is the most prolific of the teams remaining and could still reach the finals if Bryzgalov is nothing more than average.
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Rinne did what few have over the past few years. He made the incredibly gifted and experienced lineup of the Detroit Red Wings look plain and old, never scoring more than two goals in any of their five games. He also was the driving force behind Nashville’s upset over the heavily favored Wings.
He played a good series overall, but nothing compares to the performance he put on in game four of the series in Detroit. Despite being absolutely handled by the hosts, Nashville got the win because of Rinne’s stellar play. The Predators only managed 17 shots on goal and scored three, but needed Rinne to be nearly perfect in net, keeping out 40 of 41.
Rinne is likely not going to be the guy to get Nashville to the finals on his own. He has been good thus far, but nothing that makes him the center of attention. His defense in front of him has been pretty good allowing only the ninth most amount of shots against. It is more a combined team effort that anything that will see them advance.
6. Mike Smith
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For all the struggles the Phoenix Coyotes have had over the years and the ever ensuing relocation rumors, they have come together this season and won their first ever playoff series, and in no small part due to the play in net of Smith.
Up against the Chicago’s fifth best offense during the regular season, Smith stepped up to the challenge, keeping the Blackhawks to two or less goals five out of the six games they played. He sealed Phoenix’s passage to the Conference semis with a shutout victory in Chicago.
What is difficult to evaluate about Smith is how he deals under pressure. Though he was in five overtime games in the series, he won three and dropped two, both at home. It could create an issue down the road as the momentum of the fans will be needed to get the team over their tired legs.
The only reason Smith is not higher is because the Coyotes offense has been pretty good thus far. They average the most goals per game in the playoffs of the remaining teams. Albeit it was at best against a mediocre Blackhawks defense, but they still pulled them through in those close games.
Smith will definitely have to step it up as the offense will likely not be as potent against Nashville, but they still have a good balance where anything better than an average performance out of him should be enough for the victory.
5. Martin Broudeur
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It would be odd to ever make a list like this without one of the games all time greats making an appearance somewhere on it. Broudeur already made history this postseason becoming only the second goalie in NHL history to have 100 career playoff wins and will likely get more before it is over.
It has not been his best postseason by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been commendable. With a 2.06 GAA he is the worst in that category out of the remaining goalies. Same goes for his .922 save percentage. When you add in the fact that he had to go seven games against the lowly Florida Panthers, it just does not meet his standards.
However, 15 previous years of stellar playoff hockey is enough to make me assume that he will figure it out. At this point in the postseason experience plays a huge part in performances. The ability to hold one’s own confidence despite the growing pressure factors into the run of play.
Broduer’s confidence exudes itself through the simplistic nature he approaches the sport, always making the most difficult saves with ease and robbing the opposition of its own confidence through them.
This is not the New Jersey Devils at the turn of the century, but as the old saying goes, “form is temporary, but class is forever.”
4. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott
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The St. Louis Blues' two netminders combined in the first round to ease themselves to four straight wins against a tough San Jose Sharks side. After Halak split the first two, Elliott came in (due to an injury sustained by Halak) and won three straight, but had more offensive support.
These two have been the best goaltending duo the league has seen in years and the sole reason why the Blues are the number two seed in the Western Conference. They were the keepers for the league leading defense during the regular season and continued it into the playoffs.
However, all the success is not owed to them. The two combined to face only 144 shots an average of 28.8 per game, the second lowest of any remaining team. Both have been excellent in goal, but they owe much of their numbers to the players in front of them.
Elliott will start the at least the first two games of their series against the Kings as Halak has been ruled out with injury, though it matters little to who starts. Why this team is so effective is because they are probably the most complete team left in the playoffs.
3. Braden Holtby
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The shock of the playoffs thus far has been the performance by Capitals postseason rookie sensation Braden Holtby. The third goalie on the depth chart was forced to start game one because of injuries and put on an absolute brilliant performance despite losing to Boston 1-0 in overtime.
He went on from there to have a few decent games, but more excellent ones as the seven seed Caps upset the Bruins. But what has really been surprising about Holtby’s play is the consistency he shows. Despite his first two goals he conceded against Boston being relatively soft, he rebounded to match or better last year’s Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas.
At 35.4 shots faced per game, he led that category by far of the remaining keepers. It was obvious that the Bruins wanted to test the youngster, but nothing seemed to shake him.
Washington’s offense has followed the trend they started in the regular season of being inept and void of impact. They averaged only 2.29 goals per game, second worst of any remaining squad. If they want to go further it will take Holtby continuing this incredible performance to get there.
2. Henrik Lundqivst
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No one (myself included) expected the New York Rangers to need seven games to discard the Ottawa Senators. In a year full of uncertainty, they seemed to be the one team who was favored to ease into the next round. However they did not and relied on Lundqivst to get them there.
The Vezina trophy favorite Lundqvist was his normal self in the playoffs, but that is enough to make him one of the most unbeatable in the league. His 1.70 goals against average was fourth best amongst playoff starters and played at least two more games than those ahead of him. He also faced a remarkably high number of shots at 217.
It was inconceivable that Ottawa would be able to put up such a fight, but they made Lundquivst look average at times. The offense helped out little, as their 2 goals per game average is the worst of any remaining team.
Coming into the postseason, the Rangers were a favorite to win it all. Their number one seed in the East was earned off of one of the most balanced teams in the league. However, the chances they are able to take in the attack and good defense is all based on Lundqvist playing up to his standards.
1. Jonathan Quick
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The Kings were the biggest upset of this postseason, but only on paper. If you look at how they play and what they do, it would not really surprise you to learn that they beat the Vancouver Canucks with relative ease. All you had to know is that they have the best goalie in the NHL.
No team relies on great goalkeeping more than LA. Their league worst offense was barely enough to get their incredible defense into the post season with the eighth seed. Now they pose a real threat to any team in a format where winning means keeping the puck out of the net.
Quick had the best goals against average for a goalie who started every game and third best overall. He was second in save percentage, third in average shots faced per game, and had the fewest goals against of any starter.
But what makes him the highest ranked goalie is that he is the ideal combination of the three values I rated them by: He has performed brilliantly so far, he is the best young goalie in the game, and is the focal point of this entire Kings postseason.
The Kings have a chance of becoming the first eighth seed to ever win it all, and if they do it will be all because of Quick.
How Would You Rank Them?
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There is no exact science to a system of “power rankings”. It is purely based on one’s own personal preferences and subjectivity. However, I believe that this is a fair evaluation of how they should be ranked and is a good way to characterize each moving forward.
But that does not mean you have to agree.
Did I really miss something in my evaluation? Or was a pretty much spot on?
Please let me know what you think and how you would place these goalies in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
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