Ranking the 10 NHL Goaltenders with the Best Glove Hands

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2013

Ranking the 10 NHL Goaltenders with the Best Glove Hands

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    Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

    When a goaltender flashes his glove and picks off a vicious snap shot or an overpowering slap shot, it can have the same impact on a hockey game that an interception has in football.

    The puck is going toward the top corner, and the goaltender makes the near-impossible save. It stops the opponent's momentum and gives it to his team.

    After a goalie flashes his leather, look at the eyes of the players on his team's bench. They look at each other with a lot more intensity and want to do their job a little better so they can capitalize on the momentum turn.

    Here's our look at the top 10 glove hands in the NHL.

10. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

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    Ryan Miller was the best goalie in the NHL in 2010. He won the Vezina Trophy that season for the Buffalo Sabres, but his best work was done in the Winter Olympics, where he backstopped Team USA to the silver medal. It could have been gold, if not for a Sidney Crosby overtime goal.

    Miller has not been able to sustain his performance in the last two seasons, but much of that is because the Sabres have slipped dramatically. Buffalo has not been good enough to make the playoffs either of the last two seasons, and getting back to the postseason will be a difficult assignment in 2013-14.

    The Sabres could trade Miller (2.81 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 2013) at some point to a contender that wants to upgrade its goaltending. He may not be at the top of his game, but in the video above, you see that his glove hand is spectacular as he robbed then-Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo in 2011.

9. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

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    It's difficult for Antti Niemi to gather respect for the winning work he does in net.

    After he led the Chicago Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup, they rewarded him by letting him walk and become a free agent. He signed with the San Jose Sharks, and he has given them consistent play in net.

    The Sharks nearly defeated the Los Angeles Kings in the conference semifinal last year, extending it to seven games. One of the reasons they were able to push the Kings so hard was the consistency of Niemi.

    The Finnish goaltender rarely loses his cool. In the save above, he punished his former teammate, Patrick Kane, by flashing his glove and robbing him of a sure goal. Niemi makes saves like this with regularity, but he rarely gets included with the best goaltenders despite his sharp glove hand.

8. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

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    Tuukka Rask took over as the Boston Bruins' No. 1 goalie last year, and he gave general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien everything they could have hoped for with his performance in net.

    Rask had a 2.00 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage last year, and he was even better with a 1.88 GAA and a .940 save percentage in the postseason. He held the Pittsburgh Penguins to two goals in four games as the Bruins swept the Penguins out of the playoffs.

    Rask does all things well in net, and while his glove hand is excellent, he excels at squaring up to the shooter and cutting off the angle. His ability to go into the butterfly and cut off the lower portion of the net is another one of his top attributes.

    Rask put his glove hand on display in this seventh-game save against Jake Gardiner of Toronto. That save allowed the Bruins to keep a one-goal deficit from growing, and it gave them the opportunity to mount a miraculous comeback later on in the game.

7. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

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    Roberto Luongo may have had his issues in the playoffs in recent years, but he has flashed his spectacular glove save with regularity throughout his career.

    When Luongo is on his game, he can pull off the near impossible with his glove hand. In the video above, he kept his cool when Taylor Hall came in alone. Luongo's glove-hand position was excellent, and he easily snagged Hall's deft backhander.

    Luongo has one of the quickest glove hands in the Western Conference, and if he can improve his consistency just a bit (2.56 goals-against average, .907 save percentage), he has a chance for a strong comeback season with the Canucks.

6. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Sergei Bobrovsky came into his own last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. This former cellar-dwelling team nearly made the Western Conference playoffs last season, and much of that was due to the spectacular play of Bobrovsky.

    He had a 2.00 GAA last year and a .932 save percentage. He made many eye-catching saves throughout the season, but the glove save against Chicago's Brandon Bollig in the video above demonstrated his lightning-quick reactions.

    Look for more of the same from the Vezina Trophy-winning Bobrovsky this season.

5. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

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    No goaltender had better numbers last season than Craig Anderson. While injuries kept him from playing a full season, Anderson was spectacular for the Sens with a 1.69 GAA and a .941 save percentage.

    Anderson often used his quick glove to blunt opponents. In the video above, Anderson kept the Montreal Canadiens from getting on the board in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Montreal's Jarred Tinordi got the puck in full stride and blasted it at the top corner; Anderson calmly reached up to make the snag.

    Not only was it a game-changing save, but Anderson also made it look easy. If he can stay healthy for a full season, Anderson will be a legitimate Vezina Trophy candidate.

4. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

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    Kari Lehtonen is a solid goalie for the Dallas Stars, but he is not among the elite goalies in the NHL.

    Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne would all rate a clear edge over Lehtonen, who had a 2.66 GAA and a .916 save percentage.

    However, when it comes to his glove hand, few goalies can match Lehtonen. He tracks the puck well and is capable of a game-changing save. In the video above, he got his glove on a ripping shot by Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson.

    When the puck continued toward the goal line after Lehtonen got a piece of it, Lehtonen reached with a backhand stab and kept the shot from finding the net. It's the kind of shocking hand-eye coordination that new Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff will have to depend on this season.

3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

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    Jonathan Quick is often considered along with Henrik Lundqvist to be the best goaltender in the NHL.

    Quick has put together back-to-back sensational postseason runs in 2012 and '13. His play in '12 was good enough to lead the Kings to their first Stanley Cup, and it earned him the Vezina Trophy. 

    Quick has excellent reactions, and the save in the video above not only demonstrated his ability to move quickly, but it also keyed the Kings' triumph in the seventh game of their conference semifinal over the San Jose Sharks.

    Joe Pavelski appeared to have an open side, but Quick's dive allowed him to snare the San Jose forward's rebound shot with his superb glove.

2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

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    The Nashville Predators have been known as an overachieving team that has been able to get to the playoffs in seven of the last nine seasons because they play stellar defense and get just enough offense to make it count.

    While defenseman Shea Weber is their star, goalie Pekka Rinne has been invaluable for head coach Barry Trotz. Rinne manages to hold the fort even in games when the Predator forwards are not carrying their end. 

    Rinne has had at least five shutouts each of the last five seasons. He had a 2.43 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 2013.

    In the video above from the 2011-12 season, Rinne kept his cool on a rebound attempt by Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and gloved his quick shot that should have ended up in the back of the net.

    That's not surprising, considering how strong Rinne's glove hand has been. Some have compared his skill with the glove to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, according to Kevin Woodley's NHL.com story.

    Weber explained how Rinne goes about his business, per NHL.com. "He eliminates a lot of second chances himself by smothering pucks with his glove and he's so good at catching and scooping pucks off the ice."

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

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    Henrik Lundqvist is the primary reason the New York Rangers have been considered prime Stanley Cup contenders for each of the last two seasons.

    While they did not have enough offense in either season to meet that level of play, they can only thank Lundqvist for keeping them in so many games.

    His spectacular play often allows him to handle a barrage of tough shots and gives the Rangers an opportunity to win nearly every night. 

    In the video above, he snagged a close-in opportunity from David Krejci of the Boston Bruins that seems impossible. Krejci, one of the sharpest shooters in the league, had the puck alone to Lundqvist's left, and he fired his shot quickly. As Krejci started to raise his stick in celebration, Lundqvist caught the puck just before it crossed the goal line. 

    It was a save that perhaps no other goalie in the league could have made.

    Lundqvist told Steve Zipay of Newsday that he had to reach out with his glove because he could not get his body over in time.

    That's not unusual for Lundqvist. He simply finds a way to stop the puck, and it's often with his glove hand.