NHL Power Rankings: The 10 Most Surprising Goalies of the Year

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2010

NHL Power Rankings: The 10 Most Surprising Goalies of the Year

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    Tim Thomas has led the Boston Bruins to 13 of their 15 wins this season.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Make no mistake about it, the NHL is a scoring league. Players like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby steal the show with flashy highlight reel skill plays that make goaltenders look foolish.

    However in 2010, a number of goalies have emerged, or in some cases reemerged, as difference makers for their teams.

    A look at the league leaders in save percentage and goals against average will not yield the usual names of Roberto Luongo or Ryan Miller, as they have been replaced by the likes of Tim Thomas and Ondrej Pavelec.

    Although the season is still young, these goaltenders are already making their case to be considered among the league's elite at their position.

10. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

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    Carey Price has played in a league high 25 games this season for MontrealPaul Bereswill/Getty Images

    During the off season, Montreal raised some eye brows by dealing Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues after he essentially carried them to the Eastern Conference Finals .

    Instead the Canadiens put their faith in Carey Price, who followed up his breakout 07-08 campaign with two underwhelming seasons, both of which he finished with a goals against average of over 2.75.

    Price has rewarded Monreal for their faith, returning to form in 2010. Price leads the league with 25 games started and 16 wins, and his .935 save percentage is third in the NHL. In addition the Canadian born net minder is 5th in the league with a 1.96 goals against average.

    One of the most talented goaltenders in the league, Price is off to a hot start, putting him in the early discussions for the Vezina Trophy.

9. Antero Niittymaki, San Jose Sharks

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    Antero Niitymaki is 8-3-3 as a starter for the San Jose Sharks this seasonDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    With San Jose acquiring Stanley Cup winning goaltender Antti Niemi, the addition of Antero Niittymaki flew under the radar.

    However, it has been Niittymaki who has been the Sharks' best goaltender in 2010. The MVP of the 2006 Winter Olympics has recorded a solid .910 save percentage to go along with his 2.34 goals against average, on the way to an 8-3-3 record.

    Compare those numbers to his Finish counterpart, Antti Niemi, who is 40th in the league with a 3.33 goals against average and 41st in the league with his uninspiring .890 save percentage, and the results are astounding.

8. Mathieu Garon, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Mathieu Garon has seemingly supplanted Steve Mason as the number one goalie in ColumbusBruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Following a standout rookie season in 08-09, Steve Mason was considered to be one of, if not the best, young goaltender in the NHL. A sophomore slump in 09-10, however, left Columbus fans wondering which Mason was the real Mason.

    Well, he got of to another slow start this season, opening the door for former Kings' backup Mathieu Garon. In Garon's eleven games this season, he has allowed just 20 goals on 278 shots.

    It remains to be seen whether Garon can sustain this success, or if he is just a flash in the pan, but he certainly has people forgetting all about Steve Mason.

7. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

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    Jon Quick has been big in goal for the KingsHarry How/Getty Images

    Despite earning a spot on the United States Olympic Team in 2010, many still considered it likely that Quick would eventually give up his starting gig to Kings' prospect Jonathan Bernier.

    Surprisingly, Quick has silenced even his strongest critics, and has emerged as an elite goalie in the NHL. The 24 year old UMASS product has a sub 2.00 goals against average with a save percentage of .928. In addition, he has stopped 11 of the 13 shootout attempts he has faced this season.

    Quick is not letting go of his firm grip on the starting job in L.A. anytime soon.

6. Brent Johnson, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Brent Johnson has given the Penguins a solid one-two punch in net.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    With Marc-Andre Fleury struggling during the early portion of the season, Brent Johnson helped Pittsburgh keep their collective head above water, by turning in a number of great performances in goal.

    Though he ha started just ten games for the Penguins, his 7-2-1 record has proven that Pittsburgh has a legitimate one-two punch in net. Just what the Eastern Conference needed; another reason to fear the Penguins.

5. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Rookie goaltender Corey Crawford has been a pleasant surprise for the defending Stanley Cup ChampionsJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    One of the acquisitions that got the most attention this off season, was the Blackhawks signing of Marty Turco. The Dallas Stars' castaway was thought to be an upgrade at the goaltender position that could help balance out some of the losses the Stanley Cup Champions suffered in free agency.

    Much to the surprise of everyone in the Windy City, it has been Corey Crawford who has been most impressive in goal for Chicago.The rookie tender is 7-4 in his 11 starts with a respectable 2.34 goals against average.

    Crawford's performance, has eased the pain of the underwhelming Turco signing.

4. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

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    Kari Lehtonen has been a work horse for Dallas this seasonPhillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    Kari Lehtonen has been an absolute work horse for the Dallas Stars this season, starting 22 of their 26 games this season.

    Lehtonen, a former number two overall draft choice, has always had the talent, but has never been able to put it all together. A big part of the Stars' recent six game winning streak, Kari Lehtonen is becoming a true number one goaltender.

3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Sergei Bobvrosky is looking like the answer to Philadelphias goaltending woesNick Laham/Getty Images

    After thirty plus years, it appears the Flyers' goaltender search may finally be over. Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky has had very little trouble transitioning to the NHL, posting a 14-4-2 record with a .925 save percentage.

    His freakishly quick glove hand, smooth lateral movement, and great vision making him the total package in net.

    The Flyers would be foolish to put this kid on the bench when Michael Leighton returns from injury.

2. Ondrej Pavelec, Atlanta Thrashers

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    Ondej Pavelec has Atlanta fans thinking playoffsKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Ondrej Pavelec, like the Atlanta Thrashers, have been shocking the league this season. After missing the playoffs a year ago, and losing top scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, the Thrasher were not given much of a chance in the Southeast division.

    However, the stellar play of Pavelec in net (1.71 GAA), as well as former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, has made this team a contender in '10-'11.

    Pavelec, who is second only to Tim Thomas in both goals against average and save percentage, could make a legitimate run at the Vezina Trophy.

1. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

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    Tim Thomas never gives up on the puck, and never gave up his dream of starting in the NHL.Elsa/Getty Images

    Tim Thomas is not the most fundamentally sound goalie, and he is not the most athletic, but with a ton of hard work, and a bit of good fortune, the Bruins' net minder is the clear cut favorite to win his second Vezina Trophy this season.

    After winning the award in '08-'09 and signing a hefty contract, Tim Thomas laid an egg last season getting supplanted by talented youngster Tuukka Rask. Rask dominated during the post season, leaving Boston fans wanting Thomas out of town.

    Well, after a slow start for Tuukka Rask this season, Tim Thomas was given an opportunity to prove his worth, and prove it he did.

    The 36 year old Flint Michigan product leads the league in both save percentage (.956) and goals against average (1.46). One has to think Thomas will cool down at some point, but for now he is both the hottest and most surprising goaltender of the '10-'11 season.