Best Shootout Goaltenders in the NHL Right Now

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2013

Best Shootout Goaltenders in the NHL Right Now

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    Turn up your nose at the shootout if you want and say it is nothing more than a skills competition.

    However, no NHL general manager can ignore the shootout when preparing his roster. He must find two or three shooters who have the skills to win the one-on-one battle, and his goalies must have proficiency and patience when it comes to kicking out shots after 65 minutes of hockey.

    The NHL awards two points to the team that wins the shootout. While a regulation or overtime win will count more than a shootout win if two teams are tied at the end of the season, a team that struggles in shootouts will leave too many points on the table that are there for the taking.

    Here's a look at the six best shootout goalies in the NHL right now.

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

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    Jimmy Howard gives the Red Wings an excellent chance to win any time a game goes into a shootout.

    He has full confidence that he can stop the best shooters in one-on-one competition. In the above video, Howard calmly stones Boston's Tyler Seguin, one of the most creative one-on-one players in the NHL.

    Howard was 7-2 in shootouts last year as he registered 19 stops and allowed seven goals. He is 1-0 this season, having stopped all four shots he has faced in leading the Wings to a shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in January.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Marc-Andre Fleury's goaltending reputation took a bit of a hit last year when he got bombed by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs and the favored Penguins were eliminated. While Fleury had plenty of assistance from the Penguins' porous defense, he did not play well in that series.

    However, when it comes to the shootout, Fleury knows how to come away with the win. Fleury was 9-2 last year for the Penguins when the game went past the 65-minute mark and he is 1-0 this year.

    Fleury made 39 saves in shootouts last year and allowed just nine goals.

    Fleury has given up two goals on three shots this year, but that was good enough to get the Penguins a 2-1 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators.

Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

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    Antti Niemi is one of the most underrated performers in the league. His stellar play in goal had a lot to do with the Chicago Blackhawks winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. While they chose not to keep him on the roster, he has been an asset for the San Jose Sharks.

    Niemi has been quite effective as a shootout goaltender for the Sharks. He had an 8-4 record last year and he is 2-2 so far this season.

    Niemi stopped 31-of-40 shootout attempts last year and he has been solid again this year, stopping 6-of-9 one-on-one confrontations.

    Niemi has an exceptionally quick glove, and that has allowed him to perform quite efficiently in shootout situations.

Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks

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    Viktor Fasth is basically an unknown rookie who is getting his opportunity to play right now with the Ducks, and he is off to a hot start.

    However, Fasth has already had two shootout appearances and looks like he is going to excel in these competitions.

    He led the Ducks to two victories in shootouts and has stopped six of the nine shots he has faced.

    Fasth looks special because he has an exceptional glove. In the video above, Fasth flashes his glove twice on one shot to secure the win for the Ducks. On the first attempt, he gets his glove on a top-corner shot and on the second attempt he keeps the shot's momentum from carrying it into the net.

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

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    Semyon Varlamov has not had a chance to show off his shootout skills yet this year.

    However, when he lines up for his first shootout in 2013, the Avalanche are likely to have a major advantage.

    Varlamov was nearly perfect in shootouts last year, leading the Avs to eight wins in eight attempts. Varlamov allowed just two goals on 24 shots last year.

    In the video above, Varlamov stopped Blackhawks shootout aces Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on back-to-back shots with ease (0:26 mark). Varlamov has maximum confidence when asked to perform in the shootout.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

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    Martin Brodeur is arguably the best goalie in NHL history.

    The Devils have full confidence every time Brodeur is on the ice because there is no situation in which he does not have experience and he has certainly been excellent in his recent shootouts.

    While he had the night off the only time the Devils had a shootout this year, Brodeur was 7-2 in his shootout opportunities last year.

    Brodeur gave up seven goals in 26 shots last year. His ability to stay calm with the game on the line gives the Devils a great chance to win every time he performs in the one-on-one competition.