The importance of goaltending in the NHL is an understated fact. In many ways, an NHL roster is only as good as its goaltender. They are the ones responsible for stopping the opposition’s scoring attempts. Consequently, they are often the ones who shoulder the largest portion of blame during defeat. With the emergence of young stars such as Jake Allen and John Gibson and the re-emergence of several key veterans, goaltending depth in the NHL has never been greater. The following are the 10 best goalies currently playing in the NHL. During a one-game do or die playoff scenario, these are the goalies to feel most comfortable with tending the crease.
10. Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild)
What a ride it has been for the former 14th overall draft pick. Given the reins to start for a dysfunctional Edmonton Oilers squad, the potential was always there (as evidenced by a .921 save percentage during 2012-13); however, the journey was rocky as two sub-.900 season efforts attest. The Oilers defensive incompetence simply did not allow Dubnyk a fair shot; absolutely no goalie could have succeeded there. Eventually latching on with the Arizona Coyotes in 2014, Dubnyk posted average numbers before Arizona gave up on him far too soon, trading him to the Minnesota Wild. A reinvigorated Dubnyk then stopped nearly every puck and carried the Wild into a playoff spot. His play has carried over into this season where he is tending with confidence. While difficult not to dwell on the past, one can look into the future and see Dubnyk, now in his prime, being treated fairly and performing admirably. This is an aggressive ranking, but one with merit. Dubnyk is a top-10 goalie in the NHL.
9. Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Once traded for Cory Conacher and a 4th round draft selection (after previously being dealt for a 2nd round draft selection), the 6’7″ behemoth Ben Bishop has proven to be quite the steal for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The reliable Bishop has been consistently above average for the Lightning until this 2015-16 season, where his play has risen to even greater levels. Hovering right around a GAA of 2.00 and boasting a spectacular .926 save percentage as of February 6, 2016, Bishop has carried the Lightning through slumps where their offense was unable to light the lamp. His exemplary play was needed during a time of doubt for the team and his confidence is now at an all-time high. After averaging 38.5 victories the past two seasons, Bishop has established himself as a reliable workhorse knocking on the doorstep of the elite.
8. Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins)
Surprisingly, Tuukka Rask had never appeared in 60 games during a season until the 2014-15 campaign, where he shattered his previous season-high for appearances with 67 games started and maintaining his elite play. 2015-16 arrives and shockingly Rask suddenly appears mortal. With a save percentage nearly 10 points lower than his career average (.916 vs .925 career mark), was this a case of small sample sizes misleading Rask’s ability or a small blip on the season radar? The decline can accurately be pinpointed to one thing: performance while his team is on the penalty kill. The Boston Bruins are currently the second most penalized team in the NHL, trailing only the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. Add a poorly performing PK unit when they are shorthanded and that is currently the difference in Rask’s stats. The fact that his play remains at an above average level despite the poor fortune is a testament to his talent.
7. Roberto Luongo (Florida Panthers)
Aging like a fine wine, the 36-year-old Roberto Luongo continues to exceed expectations since being acquired by the Florida Panthers. After a tumultuous stint with the Vancouver Canucks that ended in a bitter divorce, Luongo was shipped back to the Panthers team he had previously played for. Doubters abound regarding his decline, the question was asked if he remained above average, let alone elite. Luongo has silenced those critics entirely with his play and leadership both on and off the ice. He has this young and inexperienced group on the verge of a return to the playoffs. There are few goalies better than the experienced Luongo. With the most active shutouts by a goalie, he is a special breed. Luongo is elite and he always has been, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
6. Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks)
Once considered the weak point of a Stanley Cup championship team and discussed as the piece holding back an elite team from true greatness, the Montreal native Corey Crawford has broken out in a big way. Crawford’s current save percentage of .930 places him firmly in the elite tier, and his seven shutouts are two more than anybody else. With Carey Price battling injury, Crawford is now a serious contender to start for Team Canada during the Winter Olympics and other upcoming tournaments. One can argue playing for a team as dominant as the Blackhawks has inflated his numbers, but that is not giving him proper justice. His backup Scott Darling has not been nearly as effective and Crawford has maintained his stellar play the entire season. A serious contender to move even further up this list, Crawford safely slots in as the sixth best goalie in the NHL at this moment in time.
5. Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Known as “The King,” the soon-to-be 34-year-old Henrik Lundqvist is seemingly gracefully exiting his prime. Delving further into the numbers shows Lundqvist has become somewhat underrated with the emergence of several other younger goalies. Lundqvist has been a model of consistency since breaking into the league, only once posting a save percentage below league average (league average SV% is .9145), and that mark was a .912 posting. He has never had a truly poor season. With as much playoff experience as any goalie on this list, there are very few netminders in consideration who would be selected over him in a one-game playoff situation. Lundqvist may no longer possess the upside to rank number one on this list, but make no mistake: he remains in the elite tier and is having yet another fine season, as he is currently on pace for his seventh consecutive season with a save percentage above .920.
4. Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings)
This sleeping giant is known to post modest numbers during the regular season prior to erupting and taking over the game during the playoffs. There may not be a more clutch performer on this list, and with so much quality playoff experience at such a young age, his placement here is justified. Holding him back from the top spot on this list are two poor season-long save percentages of .902 and .907 and a career save percentage of “only” .916. When thinking of Jonathan Quick, the numbers seem surprising as he is known to be an elite commodity. The intangibles surrounding his playoff fortitude cement his value. With 40 active shutouts, fourth most among active goalies, he has the ability to take over a game like no other goalie can. Currently in the prime of his career, the future remains bright for Quick.
3. Corey Schneider (New Jersey Devils)
Since becoming a full-time starter for the New Jersey Devils, Corey Schneider has posted an outstanding save percentage of .925. Dating back to his part-time work with the Vancouver Canucks (while sharing the net with Roberto Luongo), he is even better with his career save percentage climbing to .926. When appearing in a minimum of 25 games, Schneider’s lowest season save percentage is .921, higher than the average career SV% of the majority of goalies. These outrageous percentages are made even more remarkable with the knowledge that Schneider has been playing net for a mediocre at best Devils squad lacking in both quality defensemen and in scoring punch to alleviate pressure off of Schneider. Somehow still relatively underappreciated, there is a strong case to be made that Schneider should be placed first on this list. A lack of playoff experience holds him back some, yet it is moreso the quality of the goaltenders currently placed above him that is preventing Schneider from claiming the top crown.
2. Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
A mysterious lower-body injury speculated to be to his groin or knee has derailed Price’s 2016 and knocked the goalie off of his perch as the top netminder in the NHL. Speculation persists regarding a potentially arthritic condition, as the goalie has missed significant time with an injury the Canadiens refuse to fully disclose. Discussing Price without the context of the injury reveals an outrageously good goalie, albeit an inconsistent one. Price has two full seasons under his belt with save percentages of .906 and .905, marks that are well below average. However, when on the top of his game, he is in a class of his own. His impact has been clear as the Canadiens have fallen into a complete tailspin without him. That can be attributed to a deeply-flawed Canadiens hockey team, yet nevertheless solidifies Price’s value. Ideally, he can return next season and regain his form, but at this time, he falls just short of the number one spot despite presenting a solid case for it.
1. Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals)
Entering the 2013-14 season, Braden Holtby (nicknamed “Holtbeast”) had faced 1647 shots against during his time in the NHL while posting an elite .923 SV%. With youth on his side, Holtby was in serious contention to start for Team Canada during the Winter Olympics with Carey Price coming off of a disappointing 2013 season. Unfortunately for Holtby, the 2013-14 season proved remarkably frustrating as the since-dismissed coach Adam Oates inexplicably juggled him in and out of the lineup, not allowing Holtby to find consistency or comfort. Holtby would then enter 2014-15 under the radar, and went relatively unnoticed despite returning to his elite form. This season, Holtby has elevated his game to yet another level and has surpassed Price as the best goalie in the NHL. A changing of the guard is always a hotly contested topic, but Hotlby has arrived and is here to stay.