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  • THE HPT 10: Best goalies Print
    Features
    Written by Denis Gorman   
    Thursday, 29 July 2010 00:00
    Imagine for a minute that you have a very specialized skill set. You possess a gymnast’s balance and flexibility. Your reflexes are lightning fast. A prerequisite for the most important positional job in sports is clear-headedness and an ability to instantly forget miscues.
     
    Your job description is to stand sentry at a piece of land that is six feet by six feet while men level fusillades of small chunks of frozen, vulcanized rubber at you nightly for six months. One split second is the difference between success and failure – an infinitesimal moment separating hero from failure.
     
    Welcome to the life of an NHL goaltender.
     
    As the hockey world slows – it never stops revolving – in the final summer days before training camps open in mid-September, the staff of HockeyPrimeTime.com has decided to examine the best of the NHL. To that end, you will read our ten best rankings in a variety of categories.
     
    We begin with a list of the game’s 10 best netminders. The criteria that we used in compiling the list are goaltenders who are currently active in the NHL. So you will not find Evgeni Nabokov nor Marty Turco on this list. Nabokov signed with the KHL, while Turco is still a free agent. 

    10. Cam Ward

    Team: Carolina Hurricanes
     
    Age: 26.
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 18-23-5; .916 save percentage; 2.69 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 138-100-23; .905 save percentage; 2.79 goals-against average.
     
    Ward is somewhat forgotten, but not because he’s overshadowed by a galaxy of stars in the dressing room. In Ward’s case, it is because the ‘Canes are not often showcased on national television. Still, he was the number one goalie when the Hurricanes won the first Cup in Hartford/Carolina history following the lockout, and hasn’t dropped off since.

    9. Marc-Andre Fleury

    Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

    Age: 25
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 37-21-6; .905 save percentage; 2.65 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 148-106-2-30; .907 save percentage; 2.82 goals-against average
     
    Fleury may be the Grant Fuhr of his era. All he has accomplished in seven years was to be a number-one overall pick, a Stanley Cup runner-up, Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist. Yet Fleury is somewhat of a forgotten man when the Penguins are discussed. That’s what happens when you dress in the same room as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. However, those three do not find their name on the Cup without Fleury. 

    8. Craig Anderson

    Team: Colorado Avalanche
     
    Age: 29
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 38-25-7; .917 save percentage; 2.65 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 74-68-2-18; .913 save percentage; 2.77 goals-against average
     
    Signed as a free agent last summer, Anderson was among the primary reasons a very young Avalanche team qualified for the playoffs. Anderson had previously been employed by Florida as Tomas Vokoun’s understudy until then-rookie Panthers coach Pete DeBoer had the two alternate starts in 2008-09. 

    7. Jaroslav Halak 

    Team: St. Louis Blues
     
    Age: 25
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 26-13-5; .924 save percentage; 2.40 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 56-34-7; .914 save percentage; 2.62 goals-against average
     
    John Davidson’s acquisition of Halak from Montreal for two prospects may have been the shrewdest personnel move of the off-season. While Chicago’s Jonathan Toews won the Conn Smythe Award, it was Halak who was the best player in the playoffs. His stellar play in goal led the eighth-seeded Canadiens to seven-game series upsets over Washington and Pittsburgh. 

    6. Niklas Backstrom

    Team: Minnesota Wild
     
    Age: 32
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 26-23-8; .903 save percentage; 2.72 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 119-68-30; .918 save percentage; 2.37 goals-against average
     
    Backstrom had his worst NHL year under Todd Richards and his up-tempo system last season. Still, 26 wins, a save percentage over .900 and a 2.72 goals-against is nothing to scoff at. Entering his fifth year as Minnesota’s starter, Backstrom has averaged 29 wins, a GAA of 2.27 and a .913 save percentage for an often offensively impotent franchise.

    5. Martin Brodeur 

    Team: New Jersey Devils
     
    Age: 38
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 45-25-6; .916 save percentage; 2.24 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 602-324-105-29; .914 save percentage; 2.21 goals-against average
     
    All Martin Brodeur does with each win and shutout (he led the league with nine last season and his 110 shutouts are most all-time) is rewrite the record book.
     
    Yet, there are questions about the greatest goaltender in NHL history. Does he play in too many games? Does he need to lessen the amount of games played in order for the Devils to experience a long playoff run? Is he too old?
     
    One can argue that these questions are fair. The 38-year old is entering his 17th season with Devils and, as St. Marher opined in 1225, time and tide wait for no man. It is also fair to ask whether Brodeur is a victim of his own success and the inflated expectations of fans and media.

    4. Henrik Lundqvist 

    Team: New York Rangers
     
    Age: 28
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 35-27-10; .921 save percentage; 2.38 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 177-110-44; .918 save percentage; 2.33 goals-against average
     
    Even a most cursory inspection of the New York Rangers’ history will turn up a franchise replete with legendary goaltenders. By the time his career ends, and if he is able to continue playing at the level he has set, Lundqvist may go down as the greatest in the history of this Original Six franchise.
     
    Early in the reign of Broadway’s King, it was suggested that he was not among the league’s elite because he benefited from coach Tom Renney’s preference for defensively responsible hockey. Renney was replaced in February 2009 by John Tortorella and his “safe is death” approach.
     
    Since, the world has seen Lundqvist establish himself as a premier goaltender, not the product of a system. In a season-and-a-half under Tortorella, Lundqvist’s statistical numbers were virtually identical to those he compiled when Renney ran the bench.
     

    3. Roberto Luongo 

    Team: Vancouver Canucks
     
    Age: 31
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 40-22-4; .913 save percentage; 2.57 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 270-254-33-35; .918 save percentage; 2.57 goals-against average
     
    The questions that hang over the heads of Luongo and his teammates are simple, yet arguably unfair: Is being “good” good enough? Can Luongo and the Canucks win the big one?
     
    Vancouver has been among the league’s elite during the Luongo era, yet there is a sense of underachievement as the team has not advanced to the conference finals. Elimination has come at the hands of the 2007 champion Anaheim Ducks, the 2009 Western Conference runner-ups Chicago Blackhawks, and 2010 champion Chicago.
     
    It should be underscored that Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur in goal and helped lead the 2010 Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team to a gold medal. 

    2. Ilya Bryzgalov

    Team: Phoenix Coyotes
     
    Age: 30
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 42-20-6; .920 save percentage; 2.29 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 120-96-25; .914 save percentage; 2.55 goals-against average.
     
    The rise of the Phoenix Coyotes was the best story authored during the 2009-10 NHL season. Owned by the league and among the league’s lowest-payroll teams, the Coyotes finished last season as the second best team in the Pacific Division and the fourth-best team in the conference following a 2008-09 campaign in which only four other teams were worse.
     
    Much of the credit deservedly goes to Bryzgalov. Playing behind a team that was 24th in the NHL in goals scored, his 42 wins were third most in the league. Bryz finished second in shutouts with eight. He was also sixth in goals against and save percentage.

    1. Ryan Miller

    Team: Buffalo Sabres
     
    Age: 30
     
    Final 2009-10 statistics: 41-18-8; .929 save percentage; 2.22 goals-against average
     
    Career statistics: 187-104-1-33; .914 save percentage; 2.57 goals-against average
     
    It seems inconceivable that the NHL’s best goaltender – and, arguably, the best in the world – was not a household name until the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Yet before Miller turned the world’s grandest sporting event into his personal stage, “Miller Time” was merely a beer slogan. Without him, there’s no guarantee that Team USA even medals, let alone wins a silver medal. 
     
    Miller was equally impressive for his primary employer. The Sabres’ franchise cornerstone ended the 2009-10 NHL season second in save percentage and goals against, fourth in wins and tied for fourth in shutouts. 
     
    On Twitter: @DenisGorman

    Comments (12)

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    confused
    you say that miller is arguably the best in the world, who outside of the NHL can compete with him?
    scott Eagleston , July 30, 2010
    more confused
    How did Tomas Vokoun not make the top 10? How are Craig Anderson and Jaroslav Halak ahead of him?
    Aron , July 30, 2010
    One Year
    One season doesn't make them the best goalie in the NHL, Anderson and Halak have no place on this list, and Bryzaglov does not deserve number 2. A little consistancy would be great, you have Fatso on there based on his earlier career, and you have Anderson and Halak based on one great season each.
    Ian , July 30, 2010
    ...
    Anderson and Backstrom over Vokoun and especially Kiprusoff?
    ben , July 30, 2010
    ...
    saying MA Fleury is a gold medalist is like saying Huet is a stanley-cup winning goalie
    Steve , July 30, 2010
    Hiller?
    Uhhh.... Where is Hiller? Just because he plays for Anaheim doesn't mean he should be forgotten.
    Joey , July 30, 2010
    Kipper?
    If Luongo and Brodeur are mostly there due to sustained solid play rather than standout play in the past year, then I think one needs to argue that Kiprusoff should be on this list, near the top. He's been one of the most solid goalies over the past decade, and while his play appeared to fall off a bit this year, so did that of the team around him (and arguably Brodeur and Luongo slipped too).
    Dan , July 31, 2010
    ...
    The one year wonder Ryan Miller lovefest continues...

    Lundqvist, Brodeur, Vokoun and Luongo all have been consistently elite for the last 5 years and have had multiple Vezina caliber seasons.

    Ryan Miller has one Vezina season and that trumps the others? Gimme a break dude. Did you have Tim Thomas #1 last year too?
    Ace , July 31, 2010
    ...
    If Miller is the best goalie, the Henrik Sedin is better than Ovechkin and Crosby for winning the Hart and Art Ross.
    Ace , July 31, 2010
    ...
    A guy with a .914 Save % and 2.57 GAA beats out guys with .918 Save % and GAA under 2.57..

    amazing.
    Ace , July 31, 2010
    ...
    and kiprusoff isn't here for what reason???
    Jeff , August 01, 2010
    ANDERSON
    He's my homeboy from Chicago. the Hawks wouldnt have had these goaltending money problems if they just didnt give up on Andy. I've known him since he was 18 and KNEW he was gonna be a very good goalie in the NHL. he's one MF-keeper I'd have on my team. above average starter, and the best backup any team could have
    PB , August 01, 2010

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    Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 July 2010 09:24