The Net Effect: Ranking The Goalies

04/14/2010 1:47 AM -  David Satriano

Jose Theodore has been named the Capitals' starting goalie to start the playoffs.

Jose Theodore has been named the Capitals' starting goalie to start the playoffs.

On the eve of the playoffs, I’ve decided to rank all 17 goalies who will be trying to backstop their teams to Lord Stanley’s Cup. I think the only team that may actually utilize two goalies is the Washington Capitals. Despite coach Bruce Boudreau naming Jose Theodore as the starter Tuesday and saying he will not be on a short leash, anything can happen.  Every other team has a number one goalie. With a remarkable seven of 16 teams having goalies who have no playoff experience, things could be wide-open in the playoffs this year, especially out West, where only three backstoppers (Evgeni Nabokov, Roberto Luongo, Ilya Bryzgalov) have been before. Only seven of the 17 goalies were in the playoffs last year. Without further ado, here’s my rankings.

1) Martin Brodeur, Devils:
(2010 season: 45-25-6, 2.20 GAA, .916 SV%, 9 SO)
(Career playoffs: 98-78, 1.98 GAA, .920 SV%, 23 SO)

While he has failed to get out of the first round each of the past two seasons, you can’t argue with his resume. In addition to his regular season records, Brodeur owns many playoff records too, including a 1.98 goals against average all- time in the playoffs. He’s just two wins from 100 career playoff wins, and he could carry the Devils deep into the playoffs. Brodeur should be helped greatly by forward Ilya Kovalchuk’s scoring touch in the playoffs, which has always been the Devils’ problem.

2) Ryan Miller, Sabres:
(2010 season: 41-18-8, 2.22 GAA, .929 SV%, 5 SO)
(Career playoffs: 20-14, 2.40 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO)

Miller may have had his coming out party this season to the casual NHL fan, but he has been here before. The Sabres haven’t been to the playoffs in three years, but the last time they were, Miller was leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.  Miller is one of the more experienced playoff goalies, and will be involved in a good goalie duel with Tuukka Rask of the Bruins, but he should prevail and put up the better numbers..

3) Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins:
(2010 season: 37-21-6, 2.65 GAA, .905 SV%, 1 SO)
(Career playoffs: 31-18, 2.45 GAA, .916 SV% 3 SO)

Fleury may have been erratic at points this season, as he was pulled from eight games. But he has led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals each of the past two seasons, including winning it all last year.  He can’t steal a series by himself like some of these other goalies can, but with the offensive support he gets, Fleury won’t need to.

4) Roberto Luongo, Canucks:

(2010 season: 40-22-4, 2.57 GAA, .913 SV%, 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: 11-11, 2.09 GAA,  .930 SV%, 3 SO)

Vancouver hasn’t made it to the Conference Finals since 1994. They have been to the playoffs eight times since then, never getting past the second round.  Luongo has been a stabilizing force in the net, but would like a deep run in the playoffs. He boasts some pretty impressive postseason numbers, minus the 11-11 record.

5) Ilya Bryzgalov, Coyotes:
(2010 season: 42-22-6, 2.29 GAA, .920 SV%, 8 SO)
(Career playoffs: 9-5, 1.68 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 SO)

Bryzgalov had a great season in his third as the Coyotes’ full time starter. He’s no stranger to the Stanley Cup Finals either, as he won three games for the Ducks in 2007 when they won it all. He had very impressive numbers during the regular season, and he should be able to duplicate that success in the playoffs, despite playing an explosive Red Wings team that is clicking on all cylinders right now.

6) Tuukka Rask, Bruins:
(2010 season: 22-12-5, 1.97 GAA, .931 SV%, 6 SO)
(Career playoffs: N/A)

Of all the first year goalies in the playoffs, Rask is the best, considering what he has to work with.  That doesn’t mean he’ll get his team as far as some others, but if he isn’t on his game, the Bruins probably won’t win. They ranked 29th in the NHL in goals scored, and Rask did not get much offensive support.  Rask ranked first in the NHL in both save percentage and goals against average.

7) Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks:
(2010 season: 44-16-10, 2.43 GAA, .922 SV%, 3 SO)
(Career playoffs: 32-31, 2.23 GAA, .915 SV%, 6 SO)

Nabokov is durable – there’s no doubt about that – but the Sharks always seem to falter once the calendar hits April. Every time we think this might be the season they win the Cup, San Jose bows out in the first or second round. With Dany Heatley to go along with all the Sharks’ other weapons, they are primed for a deep run this year, and Nabokov, who has put up good numbers in the playoffs, will have something to prove.

8 ) Antti Niemi, Blackhawks:
(2010 season: 26-7-4, 2.25 GAA, .912 SV%, 7 SO)
(Career playoffs: N/A)

Niemi was not involved in the playoff run last year that fell three wins short of a trip to the finals.  This year, he’s the No. 1 goalie on a team loaded with talent. Niemi should get tons of offensive support, but if he falters, Cristobal Huet could step in.  He has fallen out of favor with the Hawks but is the one with playoff experience on the team. Huet has gone 6-10 over three playoffs with three different teams. But Niemi is the guy and started 12 of the final 13 games for Chicago down the stretch.

9) Jimmy Howard, Red Wings:
(2010 season: 37-15-10, 2.26 GAA, .924 SV%, 3 SO)
(Career playoffs: N/A)

You never know what you’re going to get out of the newcomers to the postseason, but I wasn’t sure where to put Howard on this list.  He has a team in front of him, that’s been to the finals two straight years, winning it once. I think Howard will be cool under pressure and get the Wings past the Coyotes, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess in the brutal Western Conference. Chris Osgood hasn’t had back-to-back starts since early November, but can be used if necessary. He definitely has the experience, (74-49, 2.09 GAA, .916 SV%, 15 SO), and three Stanley Cup rings.

10) Semyon Varlamiv/Jose Theodore, Capitals:
(2010 season: Varlamov, 15-4-6, 2.55 GAA, .909 SV%, 2 SO; Theodore, 30-7-7, 2.81 GAA, .911 SV%, 1 SO)
(Career playoffs: Varlamov 7-6, 2.53 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO; Theodore, 19-27, 2.79 GAA, .912 SV%, 1 SO)

This list ranks the goalies, not how far I think their teams will get. For that reason, the Capitals duo ranks here. Coach Boudreau said Theodore is the guy for better or for worse, but if the Caps struggle again, will Varlamov come in? Theodore obviously has more playoff experience, but has a subpar record. Varlamov took over for Theodore last year, and stole the series against the Rangers when the team was trailing 3-1. Both of these guys played well this year, but the goaltending will be the Achilles heel for the Caps in the playoffs.

11) Jaroslav Halak, Canadiens:
(2010 season: 26-13-5, 2.40 GAA, .924 SV%, 5 SO)
(Career playoffs: 0-1, 1.85 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO)

Halak had back-to-back shutouts against the Sabres and Flyers before ending the season with three straight losses. He let up 11 goals to the Islanders, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs. And if it was that bad against three non-playoff teams, things could get out of hand against the highest scoring team in the league in the Capitals.  Carey Price is just 5-10 in his career in the playoffs with a save percentage under .900 and a goals-against over three, so he isn’t the answer either.

12) Pekka Rinne, Predators:
(2010 season: 32-16-5, 2.53 GAA, .911 SV%, 7 SO)
(Career playoffs: N/A)

Nashville is back in the playoffs after missing out last year, and is looking for its first ever series win. Rinne had another solid season, and posted numbers very similar to what he did a year ago. He had seven shutouts, which ranked towards the top of the league. It will be very hard to perform well against the talented Blackhawks, but Rinne could steal a game.

13) Jon Quick, Kings:
(2010 season: 39-24-7, 2.54 GAA, .907 SV%, 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: N/A)

Quick started only six of the final nine games for LA, so he is plenty rested heading into the series with the Canucks. The problem is, Quick hasn’t won in his past eight starts, and has just four wins since the Olympic break. Quick did a marvelous job getting this team to the playoffs, but I just don’t think he will play at the level he has earlier in the season.

14) Craig Anderson, Avalanche:
(2010 season: 38-25-7, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV%, 7 SO)
(Career playoffs; N/A)

Another unproven in the playoffs, Anderson gave the Avalanche exactly what they were hoping: stability in net. Playing San Jose in the first round won’t be easy. Anderson went 2-2 against them this year, allowing 13 goals in the four games. I don’t necessarily think he will do poorly, but he definitely doesn’t rank the upper-portion of the playoff goalies.

15) Brian Elliott, Senators:
(2010 season: 29-18-4, 2,57 GAA, .909 SV% 4 SO)
(Career playoffs: N/A)

Elliott did go 6-1-1 in his last eight starts, but I don’t think he is ready for the playoffs yet. He faced his playoff foe, the Penguins, only once last year and once this year, so he doesn’t have too much knowledge about them. Also, the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champs. But this year’s playoff experience should help Elliott for the future.

16) Brian Boucher, Flyers:
(2010 season: 9-18-3, 2.76 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)
(Career playoffs: 11-8, 2.06 GAA, .916 SV%, 1 SO)

All but one game in Boucher’s playoff career came in 2000 when he was on the Flyers for the first time. He led them within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals before losing three straight to the Devils. Boucher has since been a journeyman goalie, playing on five teams before coming back to Philly this season. The problem with Boucher is he lets in soft goals and it is an adventure when he plays the puck. Yes, he was impressive in the win Sunday that got the Flyers to the playoffs, but he is just not that good anymore.

Well, that’s it for me until September. Enjoy the playoffs, everyone!

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