Top 5 NHL Goalies in Each Conference Thus Far

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IOctober 11, 2011

Top 5 NHL Goalies in Each Conference Thus Far

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    The NHL is back and better than ever. This weekend the NHL opened up its doors for another great season of hockey. This weekend saw the debuts of old faces in new places, rookies and coaches.

    Some goalies stood out more than others and for that reason they have earned a spot in my weekly rankings.

    Each week I will post an article where I rank the top goalies in each of the conferences. Who will reign supreme among the beasts of the East? Who will tame the top spot in the wild wild West?

Western Conference: 5) Devan Dubnyk

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    Devan Dubnyk and the Edmonton Oilers are 1-0-0 so far. Surprising—maybe this is the case but the Oilers have a lot to play for this year. One would think after years of capturing lottery draft picks the Oilers would want to get out of the basement.

    In the one game Dubnyk appeared, he stopped 33 of 34 shots for a 0.93 GAA. It is still too early to tell but if Dubnyk can play consistent in goal, the Oilers should have a shot to finish respectfully in the Western Conference.

4) Kari Lehtonen

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    Kari Lehtonen and the Dallas Stars got off to a good start in a world without Brad Richards. The Stars are 1-1-0 and will rely heavily on Lehronen this season.

    Lehtonen stopped 37 of 38 shots in the Stars' season opener. His 1.01 GAA is a good statistic for now but in order to lead the Stars this season, he will need to play consistent and solid hockey for the Stars.

3) Niklas Bäckström

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    Niklas Bäckström and the Minnesota Wild were off to a good start this weekend. Bäckström stopped 29 of the 31 shots en route to the Wild's first win.

    Last season Bäckström posted an abysmal 22-23-5 record.

    With the new offensive acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devon Setoguchi, the Wild should score more and Bäckström should feel less heat in net.   

2) Corey Crawford

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    Corey Crawford is the top man in Chicago after having an astounding offseason. Crawford has posted a 1-1-0 with a 2.05 GAA by stopping 50 of his 54 shots faced.

    Crawford and the Blackhawks are going to be a threat in the West this season but it all hinges on their stability and performance in goal.

    Do you have confidence in Crawford? Saves like this are an easy way to reassure critics.

1) Pekka Rinne

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    Pekka Rinne is in a very unique situation. Coming off a Vezina Trophy nomination in 2010-11, Rinne is going to be a unrestricted free agent in July. The Predators are going to be strapped for cash when they will be forced to sign key free-agents Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and the aforementioned Rinne.

    So far Rinne has proved why he was nominated last year for a Vezina. He has posted a 2-0-0 record with a 2.00 GAA after stopping 63 of 67 shots.

    Rinne is arguably the most valuable out of Nashville's three free agents. Will Nashville re-sign him at years end or will he be dealt in an attempt to clear salary? I predicted the Predators will keep the world-class netminder as he is a rising star in the NHL.

Eastern Conference: 5) Henrik Lundqvist

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    Henrik Lundqvist may be winless thus far but hey, has played some damn good hockey. The King has been forced to play like he did last year. Henrik and the Rangers were leading the Kings in the third period of their first regular-season game until Mike Richards knotted it up at three.

    A bad penalty and power-play goal handed the King his first overtime loss of the season. In the second game Henrik allowed one goal in regulation and a knuckler in the shootout. 

    Despite this, Lundqvist play some stellar hockey and had some memorable saves. Lundqvist has stopped 54 of the 58 shots he faced thus far for a 1.86 GAA.

    If Lundqvist can continue to steal periods for the Rangers, there is no reason why he can't finally capture the Vezina Trophy come June.

4) James Reimer

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    James Reimer, known as Optimus Reim, has had a major transformation of his own for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Reimer stepped into this season as the Leafs true No. 1 netminder. He is young, athletic and a fan favorite.

    So far Reimer has posted a 2-0-0 record with a 2.50 GAA, a .922 SV% and one shutout. Reimer would be higher on this list had he not had a third-period implosion against the Ottawa Senators but as one reader stated, "you have to judge him by the six periods he has played."

    With that in mind, if Reimer can keep the implosions to a minimum, he can make this list again next week.

3) Marc-André Fleury

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    Marc-André Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins are 2-0-0 sans Sidney Crosby. The play of Fleury without Crosby last year was nothing new and he was a huge reason why the Pens set franchise records for points last season.

    The 2-0-0 Penguins were led in the crease by Fleury who posted a 2.88 GAA by stopping 50 of the 56 shots he faced.

    Strength in the crease is vital for the Penguins if they have aspirations of playoff glory. That shouldn't be a problem with Fleury but only time will tell.

2) Ryan Miller

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    For the new and improved Buffalo Sabres it is certainly and most definitely...Miller time! This popular phrase amongst fans signifies that Mr. America is on his game in the crease.

    The Buffalo Sabres are 2-0-0 and an aggressive offense and steady netminder can be thanked for that. Miler has only allowed three pucks past him out of 63 shots overall.

    It is hard to believe that his 1.50 GAA doesn't lead the league but Miller still has been mighty impressive.

1) Ilya Bryzgalov

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    Ilya Bryzgalov and the Philadelphia Flyers have really shut up their critics so far. In his first two games as the Flyers starter, Bryzgalov has been virtually lights-out.

    Bryzgalov is 2-0 with a 0.50 GAA, a .977 SV% and has one shutout.

    The Flyers have been very impressive so far despite all the criticism they received after blowing up their roster this summer. So far Paul Holgrem has looked like quite the genius. He may have dropped Jeff Carter and Mike Richards but the addition of Jaromir Jagr and Bryzgalov especially appears to be panning out

    If Bryzgalov and the Flyers can keep this up there is no reason why they can't have a deep playoff run.

Comments, Questions, Concerns and Honorable Mentions

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    Eastern Conference

    Carey Price: 1-1-0, 1.52 GAA

    Price and the Canadiens were shut out against the Toronto Maple Leafs but prevailed over the Winnipeg Jets. His performance was average but considering the competition the Canadiens faced, Price fell a bit short of his expectations.


    Western Conference


    Jonas Hiller: 1-1-0, 2.40 GAA

    Hiller led the Anaheim Ducks to a 2-1 shootout win over the Rangers because he made many key saves. The Ducks were simply outplayed by the Sabres in his 4-1 loss but overall, Hiller looked impressive after battling back from the vertigo that plagued him last season.

    Do you feel I snubbed a player in particular? Is there someone you would have added? Leave a comment in the section below to get the conversation going.

    The NHL season has just started so check back next week for my goalie rankings of the week.


    Tom Urtz is an NHL Featured Columnist. For more NHL free-agent news, updates and alerts about players:

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