By Sean Hartnett
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Here’s a look at the top 20 goaltenders in the NHL entering the 2016-17 season.
1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
An MCL sprain limited Price to just 12 games last season and robbed the Habs of any chance of making the playoffs. When he was healthy, Price posted sparkling numbers at 10-2-0, a 2.06 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. In 2014-15, Price became the first goaltender since Ed Belfour in 1990-91 to lead the league in wins (44), SV% (.933) and GAA (1.96). The 29-year-old demonstrates unbreakable mental poise, excels at reading plays and is technically superb.
2. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Last season, Holtby put together an outstanding 22-game streak in which he did not lose in regulation. The Caps failed to get beyond the second-round hump in the past two playoffs – but don’t blame Holtby. He has been nothing short of spectacular in the last two postseasons, posting save percentages of .944 and .942 respectively.
3. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Schneider should have been among last season’s Vezina Trophy finalists. The Devils ranked last in goals, goals per game and shots per game. That didn’t stop him from tying for fourth in the league with a .924 SV%. There is no goalie more important to his team than Schneider, and his remarkable consistency keeps the Devils in every game.
4. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
While some are predicting a downfall for the 34-year-old, statistics show that Lundqvist hasn’t lost a step. He has recorded save percentages of .920 or better in each of the past seven seasons. His off-the-charts competitiveness will keep him among the NHL’s elite netminders for years to come.
5. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
At 6-foot-7, Bishop is a monster between the pipes and plays a big game during the playoffs. The 29-year-old holds a career .927 playoff save percentage and posted a .939 SV% last postseason. His massive frame stands out, but he moves very well and is a superb puckhandler.
6. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Age has not stopped Luongo from remaining as one of the league’s best. At 37, he finished the regular season with a .922 SV% and was a .934 goalie in a tight, six-game first-round elimination to the New York Islanders. His incredible drive and confidence makes him an asset for the Panthers.
7. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Quick’s regular season performances tend to place him statistically in the middle tier of goalies – but when the playoffs come around, he takes his game to another level. The 30-year-old’s career playoff save percentage of .921 is five points higher than his lifetime regular season save percentage of .916. His excellent lateral ability and competitiveness make him difficult to beat when the pressure is on.
8. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
At age 26, Jones is quickly becoming one of the league’s rising stars. He excelled in his first season in the Bay Area and led the Sharks to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. Jones was cool under pressure in both the Western Conference final and Stanley Cup Final, posting a playoff save percentage of .923 and recording three shutouts. Expect him to soon secure his place among league’s netminding elite.
9. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Crawford is like the steely starting pitcher who takes the ball and gives you a strong outing every time he takes the mound. The 31-year-old led the league with 69 percent quality starts. He had some struggles last playoffs, finishing with a .907 SV% – but his two Stanley Cup championship rings and overall body of postseason work is overwhelming evidence of his clutch ability.
10. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
At 23, Gibson possesses tremendous puck-stopping ability and has the potential to become one of the league’s best. He posted a .920 SV% in 40 games for Anaheim last season and will assume the No. 1 role after the Ducks traded Frederik Andersen to Toronto.
11. Brian Elliott, Calgary Flames
Over the past five seasons, Elliott split duty in St. Louis and never made the No. 1 job his own. Call it a small sample if you’d like, but his .930 SV% and 2.07 GAA in 42 games was mighty impressive, and he backed it up in the playoffs, recording a .921 SV% and leading the Blues to the Western Conference final. He will now have every chance to show he’s capable of getting the Calgary Flames back on track as their undisputed No. 1.
12. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Cat-quick Fleury has posted save percentages of .920 and .921 in the past two seasons. He just keeps on winning.
13. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Rask has declined in recent seasons, though some of his drop-off can be attributed to the Bruins’ faltering blue line.
14. Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins
Murray showed tremendous resiliency and stole games as the Pens captured the 2016 Stanley Cup. His competitiveness and calm demeanor are highly impressive at age 22.
15. Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
Andersen enters a pressure-filled situation in Toronto. He’s been a quality netminder in tandem with Gibson in Anaheim. With a .919 SV% last season and .947 in the playoffs, he could be just what the doctor ordered in Toronto.
16. Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
A very athletic netminder, Mrazek is a rising star and was a Vezina Trophy candidate for much of 2015-16.
17. Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers
Criminally underrated, Mason has dealt well with intense pressure in Philly. He’s posted save percentages of .928 and .918 in the past two seasons.
18. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Formerly one of the league’s best, Rinne fell on hard times last season and blew hot and cold in the playoffs. He faced the third-least shots per game, yet his .908 SV% was 26th overall.
19. Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres
A .924 SV% on the rebuilding Sabres is quite an accomplishment.
20. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues
Now the true No. 1 in St. Louis, Allen will have the chance to showcase his technically sound netminding over a full season.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey