So much of what happens in the playoffs falls onto the shoulders of which goaltender can make the most impossible saves consecutively. For so many of the current series showdowns, how the teams stand falls all the way back to the player between the plumbing.
The following list is a power ranking of the top 18 starting goaltenders for the playoffs thus far. This list includes all 18 of the goaltenders who got the starting nods for their respective teams.
Goals-against average: 5.85
Save percentage: .833
Let’s just say that there is a good reason why Ellis only played in one game for Anaheim. After backstopping Anaheim to a 4-1 loss, coach Randy Carlyle took a chance with Ray Emery, who has been in net for Anaheim since.
In that first game, Ellis seemed like he just could not find the rhythm that Anaheim needed him to fall into and, because of that, he starts our list out as the worst of the starting goaltenders this postseason. Ellis has been inconsistent for the Ducks. However, I feel like everyone in Anaheim hoped he’d find some sort of spark to help them to a win. Obviously, he couldn’t find what they needed.
Goals-against average: 4.11
Save percentage: .881
When it comes to a team that is being completely swept in the series, sometimes it falls back onto the goalies, other times it’s an entire team effort, yet still other times it’s just an unfortunate matchup. For Ilya Bryzgalov and the Coyotes, it is clearly a combination of all three things.
The Coyotes have not played their best hockey, and they have had the absolute misfortune of being paired to tango with the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. In all honesty, the Red Wings have completely torn the Phoenix net-minder apart. Bryzgalov didn’t ever really stand a chance against the Red Wings' offense, and so unfortunately, his record and his statistics land him as our second worst goalie on the list.
Goals-against average: 4.11
Save percentage: .881
Sergei Bobrovsky was originally given the nod to start for the Flyers in net. In Game 1, he allowed only one goal against, which was enough for the Sabres to take the 1-0 series lead.
In Game 2, the one they call "Bob" was still given the nod. However, after allowing three goals on just seven shots faced, Bobrovsky was pulled in favor of Brian Boucher. Boucher has been in net since and has two wins to his name. With numbers like these, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bobrovsky is so low on the list.
Goals-against average: .899
Save percentage: 2.82
Chicago’s goalie, Corey Crawford, has had a bit of a struggle to slow down Vancouver’s dangerous offense. However, in Game 4 he managed to turn things around, channel the energy from the home crowd, and hold the Canucks to just two goals on 23 shots.
Crawford finally found a rhythm in Game 4 that Blackhawks fans were waiting for. The energy the Blackhawks exhibited in that contest was enough to show that they are not going down without a fight.
Goals-against average: 3.87
Save percentage: .853
One of the key reasons that Antti Niemi is so low on our list is what happened in Game 3 of the Los Angeles-San Jose showdown. He was pulled out of the game early in the second period after allowing four goals on the 10 shots he faced from the Kings.
Niemi allowed only two goals in Game 1 of the series, but since he has allowed four goals in both Game 2 and Game 3. By some sort of cosmological anomaly, the Sharks still managed an overtime win in the game in which Niemi allowed four goals, and Nittymaki allowed a fifth. All in all, Niemi has been a pretty big disappointment after essentially carrying the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup last season.
Goals-against Average: 2.70
Save percentage: .915
For a goaltender that was last year’s Vezina Trophy winner and superstar at the 2010 Winter Olympics, there were high expectations coming into this season, and even more hopes from Sabre fans in the playoffs.
Ryan Miller has some decent numbers, which are consistent with his numbers from the regular season. Normally, this consistency would be enough. However, almost every other goaltender has stepped his game up. If Buffalo has any hopes of pulling back from a 2-1 series deficit, they are going to need to light a spark to inspire Miller to step it up.
Goals-against average: 3.04
Save percentage: .909
For Anaheim, Ray Emery has been an absolute blessing since he was signed to his two-way contract back at the beginning of 2011. Emery has been more consistent between the pipes than fellow goaltender Dan Ellis, who Anaheim traded for just prior to the February deadline.
After Ellis lost a big Game 1 for the Ducks, they took a chance and gave Emery the start in their second game against the Predators, and he basically carried the team to their first win of the series. Emery has been impressive considering how unreliable the Anaheim defense has been in front of him, and because of that he gets recognition on this list.
Goals-against average: 2.36
Save percentage: .915
Arguably the most anticipated series of this playoff season is the showdown among two of the hottest rivals in hockey today: Boston versus Montreal. When these teams were first announced to be playing each other, I know I was not the only one eager to see these teams throw down.
Thomas really has done all right, and he has been working his hardest. However, he has faced more shots than his opposing goaltender, and without more help from his defense, Montreal can really tear him apart. Thomas ended the season setting a new record for regular-season save percentage, and because of that he was expected to help the Bruins sweep the Canadiens. However, he hasn't been able to keep up this impressive trend, and because of that the Bruins are trying to scrape back from a 2-1 series deficit.
Goals-against average: 2.73
Save percentage: .922
I think it goes without saying that Jonathan Quick would have have been placed in a much higher position had he not allowed five goals from San Jose in the second period of Game 3, ultimately losing the game in overtime.
As much as Quick allowed all five of these goals in just 20 minutes, he still starts our top 10 off. So how did he get placed this high even though the Kings are losing in the series? Well, the shutout he tallied in the second game—the only King win of the series—does not hurt anything, and even with two brutal games (one allowing three goals, one allowing five goals) he still has an impressive save percentage.
Goals-against average: 2.02
Save percentage: .943
Dwayne Roloson stepped into the Tampa Bay Lightning’s starting job and really worked for their system, filling the gap that they needed filled. Roloson’s contributions during this season included stealing games in favor of Tampa Bay and, at the very least, giving them a chance to win every night.
In all three of the playoff games against the Penguins, Roloson has not given up more than three goals, holding the Penguins to just a single tally in the Lightning's lone win. Roloson really is a hot-and-cold kind of goaltender—when he’s hot you know to expect wins, but when he’s not it’s more of an uphill battle.
Goals-against average: 2.01
Save percentage: .924
Marc-Andre Fleury has managed to backstop the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning. When these teams were first announced as first-round contenders, many people were curious if the secondary scoring of the Penguins, without Crosby and Malkin, would be able to hold up against the Lightning’s proven top line.
If you focus in on the goaltenders, Fleury is facing off against Dwayne Roloson. In reality, Fleury has been the more impressive of the two. While Roloson absolutely had the better game in the second meeting of the series, in the first and third games Fleury proved too strong, including shutting Tampa Bay out in their first meeting.
Goals-against average: 1.84
Save percentage: .921
In a matchup against such a highly powerful offensive team like the Washington Capitals, it’s a huge feat to hold them at just one or two goals. Lundqvist has held the lethal Caps offense to just two goals in each of their first three showdowns.
Just being able to slow down the hotshots clad in Capitals sweaters is an impressive achievement, and being able to do it three nights in a row shows that he is fighting to give the Rangers a chance to win. Lundqvist has undoubtedly been impressive in net for the Rangers, and his record doesn’t properly reflect his efforts.
Goals-against average: 2.71
Save percentage: .887
All too often simple statistics do not explain the whole story when it comes to an individual player’s successes or failures. Pekka Rinne is one such player.
Rinne doesn’t have the most dazzling numbers, but if you have seen any piece of a Ducks-Predators game in this postseason series, you will know that Rinne has been an absolute animal in Nashville’s goal crease. Rinne has made some of the most unreal saves of the year, and still manages to remain as calm and composed ever.
Goals-against average: 2.95
Save percentage: .907
Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks had a fabulous start to the postseason with three consecutive wins to start the playoffs. However, Game 4 was a pretty sharp break from the pattern of the first three games, as Chicago scored six goals on Luongo in just 28 shots.
Luongo has a very strong defensive lineup in front of him, which normally makes wins an easier feat to accomplish. Regardless, Luongo has made some pretty fantastic saves, earning him a strong place on this list.
Goals-against average: 2.33
Save percentage: .923
When it comes to goalies that have perfect records and are en route to sweeping a series in just four games (like Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings), it traces back to the goaltender's abilities and the defense standing in front of him.
Howard has proven strong enough to help his team go deep into the postseason, and he has backstopped Detroit to three consecutive wins. In Detroit, the forwards are able to outscore their opponents pretty consistently, meaning when Howard holds opponents to just two goals in a game, that gives Detroit a big chance for the win.
Goals-against average: 1.68
Save percentage: .948
Brian Boucher was plugged in less than halfway through Game 2 of the Flyers-Sabres series, and he has been working between the pipes to backstop Philadelphia to two wins since.
Boucher has been absolutely fantastic for the Flyers. Even though Bobrovsky made amazing contributions for Philly all year, the playoff atmosphere proved too much to handle for the young net-minder. Boucher was the one who stepped in and saved the Flyers in Round 1, and they have stolen the series lead since. Just look at the numbers and you'll understand why he's the first of our top three goaltenders on this list.
Goals-against average: 1.22
Save percentage: .951
Washington’s young net-minder, 23-year-old Michal Neuvirth, has helped to propel his team to the current 2-1 series lead they hold over the New York Rangers. Neuvirth has some really impressive numbers, and he also has one of only six postseason shutouts.
With such strong power forwards as Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, among others, you’d expect them to have the strength to just completely overpower their opponents. In reality, they rely upon goaltending help because the only two games that they won, they won by scoring just two goals in each contest.
Goals-against average: 1.34
Save percentage: .956
In series like the Bruins-Canadiens matchup, there is so much talent that there is no question that a huge burden would fall back onto the goaltenders shoulders. Just looking at the numbers, you can tell Carey Price has been doing everything in his power to give his team a strong chance to win.
Price has been absolutely superhuman in backstopping his team to two victories in Boston, and only slipped when in the comfort of the home jerseys in Montreal. In the first two contests in Boston, he had a shutout in Game 1 and allowed a single goal in Game 2.
No one can disagree that Price has completely ruined the Bruins. Because of that, and his impressive statistics (a 0.50 goals-against average in the first two games), he has been the best goalie of the playoffs so far.