Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ranking the NHL's Top 25 Starting Goalies

Earlier this summer, the folks at Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog ranked their top 25 NHL goalies based on projected performance.  So, I got some serious beef with some of their picks, yo, and I'm gonna do it better myself.  (I can't actually do it better).  It should be noted that this list does not include any expected backups this year, like Tuukka Rask or Michal Neuvirth.

NOTE: These rankings factor in age, future potential, as well as career and last season's stats.

25. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas - Lehtonen started out hot last year, and looked to have finally turned the corner from his awful days in Atlanta after getting a fresh start.  But he really struggled down the stretch, finished with a 2.55 and a .914, and was one of the reasons the Stars dropped the ball on the postseason. There's also the potential that he'll rip every muscle in his lower body getting out of bed, and at agre 27, drastic improvement is not likely.
24. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg - Pavelec has been the "long term answer" in goal for this franchise for almost five years now, and still hasn't been able to put together a very reliable season.  Like Lehtonen, Pavelec had stretches last year where he was unbeatable, but was awful down the stretch and never found consistency within his play, finishing with 2.73 and a .914.  He's only 23 years old, so he's not written off by any means, but behind a young Jets team, his potential is limited for now.
23. James Reimer, Toronto - Bursting on the scene early in the winter, Reimer was the main reason that the Leafs even had a prayer of making the postseason. With a 2.60 and .921, he stole the hearts of every Toronto fan and gave the Leafs their long term answer in goal, at least it so appears.  But with any sophomore, the potential for a collapse looms, especially on the rebuilding Leafs.  His best years are nowhere near at age 23.
22. Steve Mason, Columbus - What a fall.  This time two years ago, Mason was only 21 years old, had just won a Calder Trophy, and had just been nominated for the Vezina Trophy.  Since, he has 3.04 and a .901.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that on talent alone, Mason has the potential to be a top ten goalie.  Like Pavelec and Reimer, he's only 23 years old and he'll have a much better team in front of him this season.
21. Craig Anderson, Ottawa - After having a brilliant season with the Avalanche in 2009-10, Anderson was brutal with Colorado to the tune of a 3.28 and .897 before he was traded at the deadline to Ottawa, where he posted a 2.05 and .939 over his final 18 games.  The real Anderson is somewhere in between that, but he's also 30, so slow decline can now be anticipated to come soon.
20. Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay  - The ageless wonder keeps stopping the puck, no matter where he plays.  After landing with the Lightning while the Caps were winning the Winter Classic, Rollie was a stellar pickup for Tampa.  With a 2.60 and .914 last year, he was certainly good, but he will slow down eventually. The dude will be 42 a week into the '11-12 season.
19. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary - For Kipper, the end of the tunnel is approaching rapidly.  He finished last year with a 2.63 and .906, hardly stellar numbers, but won 37 games because his team was seventh in the NHL in goals scored.  Don't let that, or his magical Stanley Cup run in 2004, fool you.  He's 34, not going to get any better, and is wearing down disturbingly fast.  Kipper is on the way out.
18. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim - A victim of a concussion this past season, Hiller was a stud when he was able to play.  With a 2.56 and .924 behind an awful Anaheim defense, he was one of their best players until he got hurt.  He should be ready to go with a fresh bill of health at age 29, but with a concussion, you never know.
17. Jimmy Howard, Detroit - Certainly a solid goalie, Howard took a big step back this year, finishing with a 2.79 and a .908.  He's not that bad, but he's certainly not a stud.  At age 27, he wins so many games because he's on one of the best teams in the league.
16. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis - After stopping every shot the Caps and Penguins threw at him in the 2010 playoffs, Jaro used that performance to force a trade to the Blues - where he had a 2.48 and .910.  He's never been particularly consistent or good over a full season, which is why he is this low, and he's never played more than 60 games in a season at age 26.
15. Corey Crawford, Chicago - He stole the job from Marty Turco within the first month of the season and never looked back, posting a 2.30 and .917 on a weakened Blackhawks team in his first year as a starter.  He was unreal in the playoffs against Vancouver, too.  At age 26, more improvement can be expected.
14. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota - Backstrom rebounded nicely after his poor 2009-10 campaign this past year, posting a 2.66 and .916 on a very bad Wild team.  But he's 33 years old, and that bumps him down the rankings.  That being said, with the additions of Dan Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, he could be in for a big season.
13. Marc-Andre Fleury - Fleury had his best full season to date this year at age 26, compiling a 2.32 and .918 for a Penguins team missing their two best players for half the season.  That being said, Flower has only a 2.74 and .908 for his career, hardly inspiring, and has been fortunate to play behind 87 and 71.  I know he has a Stanley Cup; that boosts him from average this far up the list.
12. Antti Niemi, San Jose - After a pitiful start, few were better than Antti down the stretch last season, and he finished with a 2.38 and .920, which are both excellent.  He's won a Stanley Cup, he's got a career 2.36 and .916, and he's on an excellent team.
11. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey - Yes, his stats appear awful last year.  Few were better after Christmas. He's Martin Broduer.  End of discussion.
10. Tomas Vokoun, Washington - Vokoun is tied with Tim Thomas for the best save percentage in the NHL since the lockout and is finally on a good team with a one year contract and as such, he has every incentive to play his best for a big contract after this season.  He's 35, but he hasn't declined in any of his last four seasons in Florida. Still a great goalie.
9. Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia - The highest player player, period, in the NHL this upcoming season, a 30 year old Bryz is under an unreal amount of pressure to be one of the best goalies in the league this year.  Questions about his ability to do so abound, especially coming out of Phoenix's defensive system, but the numbers are there for top 10.
8. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles - The 25 year old Quick was tremendous in his third full NHL season, compiling a 2.24 and .918 for an up and coming Kings team.  He hasn't entered his prime yet, his defensemen haven't either, and, as I said before, he's only 25.  Expect a jump to the elite.
7. Cam Ward, Carolina - No one played more or saw more rubber this past year than Wardo, who was the reason the Hurricanes sniffed the playoffs and carried them on his back.  He finished with a 2.56 and .923, amazing for how much he played, and he's 27.  If he got some help, he could be top five.
6. Ryan Miller, Buffalo - Miller regressed significantly after his amazing Vezina-winning campaign in 09-10 this year, as his ratios fell to 2.59 and .916.  Those are certainly good, but they are not elite.  That being said, few can steal a game as well or as often as Miller can.  That's why he's this high.
5. Carey Price, Montreal - Price had a stellar year this past season, tying for the league lead in wins and finishing second in shutouts, minutes, and saves.  Like Ward, he carried the Habs on his back all year, even more impressive when you account for the fact that Montreal was missing their best defenseman for all but 7 games and their best defensive defenseman for 50.  He's finally made good on his promise.
4. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver  - Masked by a bad Stanley Cup Final, Luongo was simply fantastic this past year, tying for the league lead in wins and racking up a 2.11 and a .928.  He's huge, he's talented, he's motivated, he has a reliable backup, and he's on an awesome team.  Case closed.
3. Tim Thomas, Boston - It is simply irresponsible to expect a 37 year old goalie to do again what Thomas did this past year, which was, simply, have the best year ever for a goalie.  He's obviously still elite, but he will regress a bit due to age.  It's not a knock on him, but it's not possible to be as good as he was last year two years in a row. That's why he's third.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, NY Rangers - Lundqvist is so consistent and so good, it's scary to think where the Rangers would be without him.  In his six NHL seasons he's never won fewer than 30 games, had a GAA over 2.43, or a Save% lower than .912.  He led the league in shutouts last year and was in the top 7 in both GAA and Save%.  He finally has an up and coming team in front of him and he's 29.  He could win the Vezina this year.
1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville - Rinne, like Price and Ward, is the sole reason his team has a chance at the playoffs.  He had ridiculous ratios last year at .930 and 2.12, and is the driving force behind the Predators' awesome defense.  He's also 6'5" and almost single-handedly beat the Canucks in the playoffs after doing it to the Ducks.  At age 28, he has to be the favorite for the Vezina this season.

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