NHL Power Rankings: Rating Each Team's Goaltending Duo
The difference between the contenders and pretenders heading into each NHL season is goaltending.
Even if you have an elite No. 1 goaltender, having a quality backup is also mightily important because goaltending depth is the greatest asset any team can have, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Let's power rank each goaltending duo ahead of the 2012-13 season.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs
James Reimer is currently the only goaltender on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, but it's likely that RFA Ben Scrivens will join him if he signs a new contract before next season.
Neither goalie is capable of leading a team to the playoffs at this stage of their careers, so general manager Brian Burke may look to the trade market for an upgrade.
If he doesn't bring in a veteran or a quality young backup such as Jonathan Bernier, then expect Reimer to have the best chance to win the starting job. Burke confirmed his confidence in Reimer during his end-of-the-year press conference in April.
29. Edmonton Oilers
Devan Dubnyk has a fantastic opportunity to prove that he's the future of the Edmonton Oilers in net this season. He went 20-20-3 in 47 games last season, and his performance between the pipes will play a large part in the team's success.
Veteran Nikolai Khabibulin is probably going to be the backup to start the season, but he did not play well for the Oilers last year. He went 12-20-7 in 40 games and cannot be depended on to help the team compete for the playoffs.
The time is now for Dubnyk to realize his potential and take his career to the next level.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets
We all know how awful the Columbus Blue Jackets were last year. They finished 26th in scoring and 28th in goals against. If they want any hope of not finishing with the worst record in the NHL again, the goaltending has to improve.
Acquiring Sergei Bobrovsky from the Philadelphia Flyers at the NHL draft in June was a solid move by Scott Howson, one of the few he has made as general manager of the team.
As the starter, Bobrovsky would be able to prove why he has what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie. With him in net and an improved blue line, the Blue Jackets could improve tremendously next season.
The backup could be Steve Mason, whose career has plummeted since winning the Calder Trophy in 2009. He has likely run out of chances to prove he's a starting goaltender at the NHL level.
27. New York Islanders
The New York Islanders let backup goaltender Al Montoya leave the team through free agency and now must rely on Evgeni Nabokov and Rick DiPietro next season.
Nabokov was 19-18-3 last season, but since the team's blue line will be improved, especially if first-round pick Griffin Reinhart makes the team, Nabokov should have a bit more talent in front of him next year.
The backup goalie spot could be trouble, especially if DiPietro's injury issues continue to be a problem.
26. Chicago Blackhawks
In two full NHL seasons, Corey Crawford has been unable to convince fans that he's the long-term solution between the pipes for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Even though Crawford's record last season was similar to his impressive rookie year, his GAA and save percentage were much worse. Crawford will likely open the season as the starter, but if he struggles to win and play well consistently, he might not get another chance to prove himself.
The Blackhawks have the talent in front of him to win the Stanley Cup, but it's hard to win in the playoffs when your GAA is 2.58 and you have a .897 save percentage.
Crawford and veteran backup Ray Emery are the weakest part of the Blackhawks roster.
25. Anaheim Ducks
After going 26-16-3 in 49 games during the 2010-11 season, Hiller was unimpressive last year, posting a 29-30-12 record in 73 games.
The Ducks were 19th in GAA last year, which isn't good enough to contend in a Pacific Division that features the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and strong teams such as the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes.
Jeff Deslauriers will likely be Hiller's backup this season. He has 62 games of NHL experience with a record of 23-32-4. He played in four games for the Ducks last year and went 3-1.
The Ducks' goaltending situation isn't awful, but it's not one of the strengths of their roster.
24. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning will depend on Anders Lindback to make a successful transition from backup to starter and lead the team back to the playoffs.
The 24-year-old has a 16-14-2 record in 38 career NHL games and has all the skills needed to be a quality goalie for the Lightning going forward.
If Mathieu Garon continues his strong play from last season, he will make a case to be the starter. He went 24-16-4 last year and played very well despite having little defensive talent in front of him.
The Lightning's goaltending could be a strength of their team next season after it was a massive weakness last year.
23. San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi has a solid 69-40 record in the regular season with the team, but in the playoffs, he is just 9-13.
The Sharks need him to be much better if their dream of winning the Stanley Cup is going to happen. If he struggles, 26-year-old backup Thomas Greiss will be the man who must step up. Greiss has just 38 games of NHL experience, but did play well last season for the Sharks, going 9-7-1 in 19 games played.
22. Winnipeg Jets
If Ondrej Pavelec can continue to improve and be more consistent, the Winnipeg Jets will once again be a contender for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Pavelec, who signed a five-year, $19.5 million contract earlier this summer, went 29-28-5 last season for Winnipeg. He didn't have a quality backup last season, which was one reason why he had to play in 68 games.
With the addition of Al Montoya through free agency, the Jets have more goaltending depth and a backup who can win games when Pavelec needs a rest.
21. Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby will face high expectations next season after becoming one of the unexpected heroes of the playoffs last year. Holtby has all the skills and intangibles needed to be a star in this league, but he still has much to prove before he becomes a top-tier goaltender.
Michal Neuvirth went 13-13-5 last season after going 27-12-4 the year before. He will likely be the backup next season in Washington, but Neuvirth needs to recapture his form of 2011 if he wants to one day be a starter in the NHL.
20. Philadelphia Flyers
Ilya Bryzgalov enters the 2012-13 season under tremendous pressure to finally prove why the team invested $51 million in him to lead the franchise to Stanley Cup glory.
This will be difficult since the team likely won't have Chris Pronger for the entire season, in addition to other important defensemen battling injuries. The team's lack of depth on the blue line could be a real problem for Bryzgalov, who did not look comfortable for most of last season.
Will Bryzgalov bounce back and produce like a legitimate No. 1 goaltender next season? He better, because if he were to get injured and miss a significant amount of games, the Flyers would have to rely on veteran Michael Leighton. That would be a recipe for disaster.
19. Colorado Avalanche
Semyon Varlamov had an up-and-down season for the Colorado Avalanche last year, but finished the year well with a record of 11-6-1 in his final 18 starts.
Expect the Russian netminder to have a much better season in Colorado and help the team compete for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
If Varlamov struggles at any point in the season, head coach Joe Sacco will have a capable veteran in Jean-Sebastien Giguere who can step in and win important games. The former Conn Smythe winner has plenty of experience and went 15-11-3 last season for the Avalanche.
Colorado has a strong goaltending tandem heading into the 2012-13 season, and if its offense finishes better than 24th in scoring like it did last year, the Avalanche will make the playoffs.
18. Carolina Hurricanes
Starting goaltender Cam Ward will be the most important player for the Carolina Hurricanes this season. Last year, Ward's GAA and save percentage were the highest they had been since the 2007-08 season. This was one reason why the Hurricanes finished 25th in GAA last year.
To be fair, his defense did not play well in front of him for stretches of the year, but for the Hurricanes to make their first playoff appearance since the 2008-09 season, Ward has to play at an elite level.
The additions of star forwards Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin will help the team score more goals than they did last year, so Ward should have more offensive support.
Veteran Brian Boucher will likely begin the season as Ward's backup. He was 1-6 in 10 games last season for the Hurricanes and is not capable of giving the team a good chance to win if Ward needs a break or misses games with an injury.
Ward is a solid No. 1 goaltender, but the Hurricanes would be wise to find a better backup than Boucher for next season.
17. Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers returned to the playoffs last year on the strength of their goaltending. Scott Clemmensen went 14-6-6, while veteran Jose Theodore went 22-16-11. Young prospect Jakub Markstrom also played well and proved that he is ready for a permanent role on the NHL roster.
The decision on who to start is complicated because Clemmensen, Markstrom and Theodore all played well last season, and it would be tough to lessen each of their roles on the team.
It's a problem most teams would love to have, however. The Panthers have three quality goaltenders who can give them a chance to win each night.
16. Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild will need impressive, consistent performances from goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding to win the Stanley Cup in the near future. Backstrom is the best of the two, but he needs to stay healthy for the Wild to win games consistently.
Harding played in 34 games last season, the most he's ever played in an NHL season, and went 13-12-4. He was re-signed this summer by the Wild, and if Backstrom struggles or battles through more injuries, Harding should have a fantastic chance to win the starting job.
15. Calgary Flames
Miikka Kiprusoff is one of the five best goaltenders in the NHL and the only reason why the Calgary Flames were in the playoff hunt in the final months of the 2011-12 season. He's a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and will once again have to play at an elite level on a consistent basis for the Flames to return to the playoffs.
Kiprusoff is a lock for 30-plus wins, but he will have to play a ton of games to keep the Flames alive in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Henrik Karlsson is the likely backup this season in Calgary, but he only has 26 games of NHL experience. The Flames have an elite goalie in Kiprusoff, but he cannot be expected to lead a mediocre team to the playoffs by himself.
14. Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators have an interesting scenario involving their goaltending heading into next season. They have three quality goalies that could all start at the NHL level, so choosing who to start and who to have as the backup will be a difficult task for head coach Paul MacLean.
Anderson is the likely starter, since he went 33-22-6 last season in that role.
Bishop's skills are a little more polished than Lehner's right now, and he has a bit more NHL experience as well. He would be the best choice as the backup next season.
Either way, Ottawa has several quality netminders to help it improve on its impressive 2011-12 season next year.
13. Montreal Canadiens
A new six-year contract worth $39 million cemented Carey Price as the team's goaltender of the future earlier this summer, and he will once again be counted on to carry the team when the offense inevitably struggles.
Poor defensive play and a blue line that was decimated by injuries were two main reasons for Price's poor 26-28-11 record last season. He will certainly have a bounce-back season and continue to show why he's the No. 1 goaltender that the Canadiens will build their team around going forward.
Peter Budaj will likely be Price's backup next season. The veteran netminder has 259 games of NHL experience and went 5-7-5 last season for Montreal.
The Canadiens are currently rebuilding, but at least they already have the most important position taken care of with Price signed long-term.
12. Phoenix Coyotes
Mike Smith's career season propelled the Phoenix Coyotes to the Western Conference Finals last season, and with a similar defensive group in front of him that's only going to get better, there's no reason for Smith not to have another fantastic year.
He went 38-18-10 for the Coyotes last year and also had eight shutouts. With Ray Whitney leaving the team through free agency, Smith will have to dominate again for the Coyotes since their offense is less likely to score as many goals as last season.
LaBarbera is expected to back up Smith next season, and the team will be hoping he can improve on his 3-9-3 record from a year ago. The Coyotes cannot afford to have Smith play too many games and not be fresh for the late-season playoff push.
11. Dallas Stars
One of last season's top goaltenders was Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars. He played very well despite not having a true No. 1 defenseman in front of him. He was the primary reason why the Stars were contending for a playoff spot late in the season.
Lehtonen went 32-11-2 last year, and his backup, Richard Bachman, was 8-5-1. This goalie tandem will be an important part of the team's quest for a playoff spot next season.
With the offseason additions of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, there's no question that the Stars will score lots of goals, so they will need strong goaltending to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
10. Detroit Red Wings
Jimmy Howard is one of the finest young goaltenders in the NHL and won 35 games for the third straight season last year. He also posted the best save percentage and GAA of his career.
Losing his two best defensemen from last season in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart will make his job more difficult, but Howard is definitely capable of winning 30-plus games with a much different group of defensemen in front of him.
He will be backed up by Jonas Gustavsson or Joey McDonald. Gustavsson was signed as a free agent from the Toronto Maple Leafs and will likely be more comfortable away from the pressures of being a goalie in Toronto. He will likely start the season as the backup, but McDonald was impressive in the role last year with a record of 8-5-1 and a 2.16 GAA.
Either guy would be a solid choice to backup Howard and give the Red Wings some strong goaltending depth for next season.
9. Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask will once again enter the season as the Boston Bruins' starting goaltender, but this time, there's no veteran capable of taking the job from him.
Fans are expecting Rask to be just as good as Tim Thomas was during the last two seasons, which will be a tough challenge for the Finnish goaltender.
His backup, Anton Khudobin, has limited NHL experience, but is certainly capable of playing well whenever Rask needs a rest. He has the composure and talent to succeed at the NHL level.
In the defense-first system that the Bruins play, goaltending will once again be the most important part of the team.
8. New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur was brilliant in the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, and there's no reason why he can't maintain a similar level of success into next year. Brodeur was 31-21-10 last season and is certainly capable of winning 30-plus games again.
Backup goalie Johan Hedberg played very well for the Devils last year, finishing the year with a 17-7-2 record in 27 games. He will be able to give Brodeur some rest when needed, which is important for a 40-year-old veteran.
7. Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators have one of the top five goaltenders in the NHL in Pekka Rinne and were able to replace young backup Anders Lindback with Chris Mason after the Swedish netminder was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning early in the offseason.
Rinne has been a Vezina Trophy finalist for the last two seasons and will once again be an MVP candidate for the Predators next year.
Even if he has to play 70-plus games again, there's no question that Rinne is capable of leading the league in wins for a second straight season.
Mason has a lot of experience and was 8-7-1 last season for the Winnipeg Jets. The Predators will be a very tough team to beat next season with Rinne between the pipes, even though they have lost several key players from last year's team in free agency.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury's playoff struggles last season will give him all the motivation he needs to have a career year.
The former No. 1 overall pick was tremendous in the regular season, finishing the season with a 42-17-4 record. His 42 wins ranked second in the league.
Newly-acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun could easily start 25-35 games if needed, which would be a real asset to the Penguins.
The Penguins have great depth between the pipes and have no excuses if goaltending is the reason for their demise next year.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Unless an injury prevents Cory Schneider from being ready for the season opener, expect the 26-year-old to be the starting goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks this year. Even though Roberto Luongo hasn't been traded yet, another year of being a backup would hurt Schneider's growth. His time to take over the team is now.
He went 20-8-1 last season in 30 games, and because of his impressive play throughout the season, he was rewarded with a three-year contract worth $12 million.
Luongo would be a tremendous backup to Schneider and would likely be the best backup goaltender in the league. Both of them will be able to keep each other fresh for the entire season, and both are used to dealing with high expectations from fans and the media.
4. Buffalo Sabres
One of the league's biggest disappointments last season were the Buffalo Sabres. However, goaltender Ryan Miller played well throughout the season despite having some of his best defensemen suffer injuries.
The team also failed to give him enough offensive support on a consistent basis. The Sabres were 17th in goals scored per game last year.
Miller comes into this season as a Vezina Trophy candidate and one of the most dependable goalies in hockey. He's a lock for 30-plus wins and will be a major reason why the Sabres should be a much-improved team next year.
His backup, Jhonas Enroth, is a talented goaltender well-suited for the role. He went 8-11-5 last season, but did play well in several of those defeats.
Goaltending is one of the strengths of the Sabres, and with Miller leading the way, the team has no excuse to finish outside the top 10 in GAA next year.
3. St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak won the William M. Jennings Trophy last season by helping the St. Louis Blues allow the fewest amount of goals in the NHL. The team will need more of that success to make it back to the second rebound of the layoffs and beyond.
Elliott led the league in GAA and save percentage during the regular season, but was far worse in the playoffs. He went 3-4 in eight playoff games and didn't look comfortable at all.
He will be under a lot of pressure to play at an elite level again, or Jaroslav Halak might take over the starting job. Halak was 28-12-7 last season and was quite consistent throughout the year.
Elliott is a good player, but for the Blues to have the most success, Halak needs to be the starter and play the majority of the team's games.
2. New York Rangers
The Rangers are led by star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who won the Vezina Trophy last season for the first time in his career. He was also a Hart Trophy finalist. Him and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings are many people's choices as the best goaltenders in the league.
One thing that the Rangers can depend on throughout the season is Lundqvist's consistently strong play between the pipes. It's shocking when he has back-to-back poor performances, which makes him so valuable. With a young and improving defensive group in front of him that includes players such as Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal, King Henrik's stats could be even better next season.
Another reason why the Rangers finished third in GAA last season was the strong play of veteran backup Martin Biron. He went 12-6-2 in 21 games for the Blueshirts last year and will once again be a key part of the team.
The Rangers will be the favorites to win the Eastern Conference next season, and the strength of their goaltending is a major reason why.
1. Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick's historic run in the playoffs last season was a huge step in his career. The 26-year-old star won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and should have added to his trophy case at the NHL Awards ceremony, but did not win the Vezina Trophy.
Quick will go into next season as the top goaltender in the NHL. He will be counted on to win 35-plus games for the third straight season and be among the leaders in GAA and save percentage.
His backup, for now at least, is Jonathan Bernier. Since he wil be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, Bernier will likely play a bigger role on the Kings this season so he can perform well, which would boost his trade value. Los Angeles probably won't be able to give Bernier the salary he wants after signing Quick to a 10-year, $50 million deal.
The Kings will go into next season with the best goaltending duo in the league, but if Bernier is traded, they must ensure that a quality backup is on the roster to back up Quick.