Playoff Goalie Rankings

04/12/2011 12:46 AM -  David Satriano

Antti Niemi (Source: Creative Commons user Bridget Samuels)

For a possible ranking list of scorers for your playoff fantasy hockey pool, check out our postseason league draft results.

What a difference a year makes. Last year, half of the teams in the playoffs were using goalies who had no playoff experience. This season (largely due to the fact that 13 of the 16 teams who qualified last year made it again to the playoffs this season) there are only three goalies – Corey Crawford, Michal Neuvirth, and Sergei Bobrovsky – who haven’t been to the playoffs yet. There are always surprises, and I am sure the 2011 playoffs will be no different. I have taken that into account, so here are my rankings of the goalies in the playoffs.

1) Antti Niemi, Sharks
(2011 season: 35-18-6, 2.38 GAA, .920 SV%, 6 SO)
(Career playoffs: 16-6, 2.63 GAA, .910 SV%, 2 SO)

Niemi proved last year that he has ice in his veins, notching the 16 wins that earned the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup. And while he started off slow with San Jose, he’s gone 26-5-4 in his past 35 decisions. Niemi has started 30 of 31 games including 28 in a row at one point before getting a game off down the stretch.  As a guy who has been there, done that, I rank him my number one goalie in this year’s playoffs. He brings Stanley Cup experience to a team that has underachieved in the playoffs time and time again. But expect him to help the Sharks compete for the Cup this year.

2) Roberto Luongo, Canucks
(2011 season: 38-15-7, 2.11 GAA, .928 SV%, 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: 17-17, 2.46 GAA,  .919 SV%, 1 SO)

I’ll start this the same way I did last year: Vancouver hasn’t made it to the Conference Finals since 1994. They have been to the playoffs nine times since then, never getting past the second round.  Luongo ranked tied for first in wins, second in goals-against average and third in save percentage. This is the best Canucks team in a very long time, and anything short of the Cup would be a huge letdown.  But…they have to face the Blackhawks, who have eliminated them each of the past two seasons. Luongo is only .500 in the playoffs, but I’m throwing him a bone this season. With that team in front of him, I think this is the year he finally breaks out in the playoffs.

3) Tim Thomas, Bruins
(2011 season: 35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 SV%, 9 SO)
(Career playoffs: 10-8, 2.16 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO)

Thomas almost got the triple crown, finishing first in goals-against average and save percentage, but finishing just three wins behind the leader. He didn’t appear in a single Bruins playoff game last year, as the team chose to ride the rookie Tuukka Rask instead, even after blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers. The last time he appeared in the playoffs (2009), he went 7-4/1.85 GAA/.935 SV%.  That’s why he makes the top three.

4) Ryan Miller, Sabres
(2011 season: 34-22-8, 2.59 GAA, .916 SV%, 5 SO)
(Career playoffs: 22-18, 2.39 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO)

Miller was nowhere near as clutch as he was last season, leading the US team to the gold medal game in the Winter Olympics as well as the Sabres to the playoffs where they lost to the Bruins in six games in the first round. He is better than any of the three goalies on the Flyers (Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton), and I think the Sabres can pull off this upset. If they do, a huge reason will be because of Miller. Despite his numbers not being in the top ten this season, Miller is still a top-five goalie in this years’ playoff crops.

5) Marc Andre-Fleury, Penguins
(2011 season: 36-20-5, 2.32 GAA, .918 SV%, 3 SO)
(Career playoffs: 38-24, 2.52 GAA, .911 SV% 4 SO)

Fleury has the most playoff experience of any goalie (not counting Chris Osgood, who probably won’t play) and has played in 57 playoff games in the past three seasons.  His 38 wins are 16 more than the next closest playoff goalie (Miller).  His numbers in last year’s playoffs- 2.78 GAA, .891 SV%- were not great, and if he is without Sidney Crosby for the playoffs, things could get ugly for the Penguins.

6) Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
(2011 season: 36-27-5, 2.28 GAA, .923 SV%, 11 SO)
(Career playoffs: 14-16, 2.66 GAA, .907 SV%, 3 SO)

Lundqvist had a fine season, which went rather unnoticed. His 11 shutouts ranked first in the league. He also posted a 2-1 record with a 1.34 GAA against Washington this season, allowing only four goals in three games to one of the league’s most explosive offenses. Lundqvist and the Rangers had a 3-1 lead over Washington before losing in seven games two seasons ago, but he is capable of stealing more than a game against them.  While I think he deserves to win the Vezina Trophy this year, I don’t see the Rangers winning their first round series, so I won’t rank Lundqvist in my top five.

7) Ilya Bryzgalov, Coyotes
(2011 season: 36-20-10, 2.48 GAA, .921 SV%, 7 SO)
(Career playoffs: 12-9, 2.23 GAA, .925 SV%, 3 SO)

Bryzgalov has to be exhausted after starting 38 of Phoenix’s last 40 games of the regular season. His opponent, Detroit, scored the second-most goals in the league this year with 261.  In the playoff loss last season, Bryzgalov allowed 24 goals in the seven games, good for a GAA over 3.00. He allowed 11 goals to the Red Wings in his four starts this season, but Detroit’s offense is too explosive to expect better-than-average playoff numbers from Bryzgalov.

8 ) Dwayne Roloson, Lightning
(2011 season: 24-25-5, 2.59 GAA, .914 SV%, 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: 18-12, 2.56 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO)

A 16-year veteran, he’s only played in the playoffs in three seasons. But two of those times, his team made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, including in 2007, when he and the Oilers fell one game short of winning it all. The oldest goalie in the field, I can’t count him out completely. A first-round win over the Penguins is not out of the question, but Roloson left the Islanders this season for this exact reason: to get to the playoffs. If he is on  his game, he could be a great playoff sleeper.

9) Corey Crawford, Blackhawks
(2011 season: 33-18-6, 2.30 GAA, .917 SV%, 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: 0-0, 3.75 GAA, .857 SV%, 0 SO)

Let’s quickly look at the Blackhawks goalie situation this year versus last year. 2010: Veteran Cristobal Huet starts, plays poorly and is usurped by rookie and unknown Antti Niemi, who leads Chicago to the Stanley Cup. 2011: Veteran Marty Turco  plays poorly and is usurped by rookie and unknown Corey Crawford. For that reason alone, I can’t put Crawford too low on this list.  While the championship roster from last year has been dismantled, the core is still together. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith know how to win and should give Crawford confidence, even against the President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks. Remember, the Blackhawks have knocked out the Canucks the past two years in the playoffs.

10) Jimmy Howard, Red Wings
(2011 season: 37-17-5, 2.79 GAA, .908 SV%, 2 SO)
(Career playoffs: 5-7, 2.75 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO)

Howard is Detroit’s guy, for better or worse.  With Osgood injured- he hasn’t played since early January- Howard should get all of the starts in the playoffs. While he had a solid regular season for the second year in a row, he won’t be ranked higher until he shows playoff results.

11) Carey Price, Canadians
(2011 season: 38-28-6, 2.35 GAA, .923 SV%, 8 SO)
(Career playoffs: 5-11, 3.17 GAA, .894 SV%, 2 SO)

Not sure what it is with Price, but…he does not show up for the playoffs. He hasn’t gotten a playoff win since 2008 and has lost eight straight playoff games since then. Price’s numbers, as seen above, are not very good in the playoffs. There are just more talented guys out there, and his opponent, the Bruins, will be chomping at the bit to put last years’ playoff failure behind them. Price may win a game or two, but not much else.

12) Jonathan Quick, Kings
(2011 season: 35-22-3, 2.24 GAA, .918 SV%, 6 SO)
(Career playoffs: 2-4, 3.50 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO)

After starting 72 games this year, Quick looked like a shoo-in to start that many games again this season. But the Kings used backup Jonathan Bernier enough to give him some rest, and Quick only started 60 games. So he will be fresh for the playoffs, but drawing the Sharks in the first round isn’t a good thing. It will be hard to win when he is the second-best goalie playing in the series.

13) Pekka Rinne, Predators
(2011 season: 33-22-9, 2.12 GAA, .930 SV%, 6 SO)
(Career playoffs: 2-4, 2.68 GAA, .911 SV%, 0 SO)

Nashville is making its sixth playoff appearance, and is still in search of their first series win.  And while history is not on their side, Rinne did have a 3-0 record against his first-round opponent, the Ducks, this season. Despite being the underdog, I think the Preds finally win a playoff series, which is why I ranked him just above his counterparts.

14) Dan Ellis/Ray Emery, Ducks
(2011 season: Ellis, 21-10-7, 2.77 GAA, .898 SV%, 2 SO; Emery, 7-2-0, 2.28 GAA, .926 SV%, 0 SO)
(Career playoffs: Ellis, 2-4, 2.52 GAA, .938 SV%, 0 SO; Emery 18-12, 2.46 GAA, .904 SV%, 3 SO)

Ellis has played well since his acquisition from the Lightning earlier in the season, and started the past two games for the Ducks. But Emery started the six before that, and has looked impressive since his callup. Obviously more experienced, the veteran Emery has been to the finals with the Senators, who lost to the team he currently plays for.  While I’m not sure which goalie will start, or if they will alternate, neither one really seems like a good fantasy playoff option for me, although a first round series win isn’t out of the question.

15) Semyon Varlamov/Michal Neuvirth, Capitals:
(2010 season: Varlamov, 11-9-5, 2.23 GAA, .924 SV%, 2 SO; Neuvirth, 27-12-4, 2.45 GAA, .914 SV%, 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: Varlamov 10-9, 2.49 GAA, .915 SV%, 2 SO; Neuvirth, N/A)

Coach Boudreau always has his goalies on a short leash. Take last season, when he said former Capital Jose Theodore was the guy for better or for worse. After he lost the first game, and allowed two quick goals in game two, Varlamov came in, and Theodore never sniffed another minute of action. Varlamov has limited playoff action, but was a huge reason the Caps came back from a 3-1 series deficit when they played the Rangers- their first-round opponent this season- to win the series in seven games. Neuvirth hasn’t been in the playoffs, similar to Varlamov two years ago, but either way, the Capitals offense is not what it used to be, and goaltending has been this teams’ Achilles heel.

16) Sergei Bobrovsky/Brian Boucher/ Michael Leighton, Flyers:
(2011 season: Bobrovsky, 28-13-8, 2.59 GAA, .915 SV%, 0 SO; Boucher 18-10-4, 2.42 GAA, .916 SV%, 0 SO; Leighton, 1-0, 4.00 GAA, .889 SV%, 0 SO)
9-18-3, 2.76 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)
(Career playoffs: Bobrovsky, N/A; Boucher 17-14, 2.20 GAA, .914 SV%, 2 SO; Leighton, 8-3, 2.46 GAA, .916 SV%, 3 SO)

This is the hardest team to rank since there are three goalies in the mix. I ranked Boucher last last season, and he played very well, helping the Flyers get to the finals. Leighton, has only appeared in one game this season, although I wouldn’t count him completely out of the playoff picture, because of what happened last year. But both will have to earn the job from Bobrovsky who, in all likelihood, will be starting in game one versus the Lightning. He will be the sixth goalie the Flyers have started a in the playoffs over the past five seasons (Antero Niittymaki, Martin Biron, Robert Esche, Boucher, Leighton). To be clear, this does not mean I think the Flyers are the worst team in the playoffs, but rather that I rank their tandem of goalies last. /

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