The most important player on any team during the playoffs is the goaltender—unless you’re the Washington Capitals and you rely on offense to win you games, and when your offense doesn’t show up you drop three straight games to the Montreal Canadiens and are upset in the first round.
If you were told at the beginning of the regular season who the top two goaltenders in the playoffs were going to be to this point, you would have laughed pretty hard—seeing as neither was a starter for his team.
But the playoffs are as unpredictable as Tiger Woods’ golf game since his return from “you know what.”
There have been flaws in every goalie's game.
For the record, just because a goalie’s team may be leading the series, doesn’t mean that goalie has done his job—at least not in these rankings.
Fleury has not been good by any means, but he has been consistent and consistency normally pays off in the playoffs.
He has earned the last spot in the rankings because regardless of the fact that he is 6-3 and his Pittsburgh Penguins are two games away from their third straight Eastern Conference Final appearance, Fleury’s .897 save percentage is atrocious.
The 25-year-old Fleury has surrendered 25 goals in the postseason, the second worst behind only Jimmy Howard—however, Howard has faced roughly 80 more shots than Fleury.
If it weren’t for the playoff experience up and down the Pittsburgh roster, Fleury wouldn’t be in this conversation because the Pens would have been eliminated in the first round.
The rookie won some big games in the first round for the Detroit Red Wings, but the playoff pressure has finally come crashing down on Howard.
Howard’s .908 save percentage is more than respectable, considering it is his first postseason. He has also faced more shots this postseason than any of the other remaining goalies (326)—this is the only reason why Howard was not ranked last.
Howard is 4-6 and his Red Wings are now one game away from being swept by the San Jose Sharks. His record can be linked to the fact that Howard has surrendered four goals or more in six games so far—he surrendered four or more goals just 11 times in the regular season.
Another rookie who has had a roller coaster of a postseason thus far. Niemi has been burned by several bad rebounds, but has also made several contortionist-like saves to keep the Chicago Blackhawks afloat in the extremely talented Western Conference.
Twice in the first round Niemi followed up a shutout by allowing four goals.
In the first game of the conference semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks, Niemi made it through just two periods and surrendered five goals in the progress.
But like the roller coaster he has become, after allowing two goals on the first eight shots in Game Two, Niemi stopped the final 18 shots to even the series at 1-1.
To Niemi’s credit, he is 5-3 and leads all playoff goalies with two shutouts.
Boucher out-dueled Martin Brodeur in the first round like it was nothing. His stellar efforts against the New Jersey Devils were rounded out by a series-clinching Game Five shutout.
But the second round has not been as kind to Boucher, who is looking to duplicate some of the postseason magic from a decade ago when he led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final.
In two games against the Boston Bruins, Boucher has surrendered eight goals, several of which could be considered “soft.” He has been caught cheating several times in the second round and as a result the Bruins have a 2-0 series lead.
Despite his second-round troubles, Boucher has still had a monster postseason and his 16 goals against are the fewest among the remaining goalies.
Luongo had gone through a bit of a rough stretch toward the end of the regular season which had carried over into the first four games of the playoffs.
The rough stretch came to a head when Luongo surrendered four goals in back-to-back games in Games Three and Four.
However, Luongo has rebounded and is beginning to look like his old self. His efforts in Game One against Chicago had the young Hawks puzzled, and had them questioning if they were ready for the Canucks.
Despite surrendering three goals in Game Two’s loss, including two in the third, Luongo made several key saves late in the game to give his team the opportunity to win it.
The talented veteran will only make things harder on the Blackhawks from here on out.
How do you overcome years of being referred to as a choke artist?
Win your team the Stanley Cup.
Nabokov still has some time to go, but for now, his Sharks are just one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals.
The 34-year-old Nabokov was fantastic in the first round against the youthful Colorado Avalanche. He surrendered 11 goals in six games and shut the Avs down for the final four games of the series.
The Red Wings have found ways to beat Nabokov, but luckily for Nabokov, the Sharks have found more ways to beat Howard.
Nabokov’s 2.13 goals-against average is first and his .916 save percentage is third among the remaining goalies. He has also won six straight games.
Halak has played three awful games this postseason, all of which were losses.
Having said that, the other six games Halak has played have been nothing short of masterpieces.
So far, Halak has surrendered just one goal in his last five games, including a 53-save effort in Game Six against the Capitals.
Halak, who wasn’t even the Habs’ starting goalie at the beginning of the season, single-handedly took the Canadiens on his back in the first round and stopped 131 of the final 134 shots he faced against the Capitals in route to Montreal’s come-from-behind 4-3 series upset.
Despite trailing the Penguins 2-1 in the second round, Halak still leads all goalies with a remarkable .933 save percentage.
Nobody has forgotten that Rask outplayed Vezina-favorite Ryan Miller in the first round. And like Halak, nobody has forgotten that Rask wasn’t the starting goalie for Boston at the beginning of the season. But people may have forgotten that Rask is a rookie.
Rask has cruised through the playoffs thus far, and has looked more composed than most veteran goalies, including Broduer, which is a given because Brodeur is playing golf right now.
Rask’s 2.31 save percentage is third among the remaining goaltenders, and his .922 save percentage is second to Halak. He is also 6-2 to this point.
His play might have dropped slightly in the second round, but he is winning tight games and proving that he has what it takes to be a playoff goalie—his Bruins are up 2-0 in the second round as a result.