When you think of a Stanley Cup winning team, one of the first thoughts is the goaltenders. From Patrick Roy to Martin Broduer, the defenders of the net are key to a championship squad. There are many quality starters in today’s game, but which five stand out from the rest of the pack?
Honorable Mentions: Antti Raanta (AZ), Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK), Casey DeSmith (PIT)
(Stats listed in parentheses are from the 2018-19 season unless noted)
5. David Rittich, Calgary Flames (21 Games Played, 12-4-2, 2.22 Goals Against Average, .926 Save Percentage)
At the beginning of the season, the starting job in Calgary was Mike Smith’s to lose. He may not get the chance to get it back thanks to the outstanding play of Rittich. The upstart new net-minder has already posted vastly better numbers in the same amount of games that he played last season.
Rittich might double his games played if he continues his torrid pace. He ranks in the top three in both save percentage and goals against average among goalies that have played at least 15 games. If he continues his play, combined with the Flames depth on both ends of the ice, there might be hockey games played deep into May for Calgary.
4. Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins (22 GP, 12-6-2, 2.28 GAA, .928 SV%)
It has been a renaissance year for the 33-year-old in Halak. Halak’s final two seasons as a New York Islander were tumultuous. He struggled to put up numbers he had in the past and even spent time in the AHL for a good portion of the 2016-17 season.
That has changed since he signed with the Bruins this past offseason. He arguably outplayed Tukka Rask in the preseason and Halak has carried that into games that counted. Halak owns the best save percentage and is fifth-best goals against average in the league among goaltenders who have played at least 15 games.
Halak has not taken over the starting job completely for the B’s. Rask has played well enough to split time,and having a veteran goaltending tandem could push the Bruins past the second round.
3. Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars (24 GP, 13-9-1, 2.25 GAA, .926 SV%)
The season for The Lone Star State’s only NHL team took an interesting turn. Their CEO requested interviews to criticize Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. At the start of December 30th, the Stars were holding onto the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The play of the defender of the net is a big reason why.
Bishop came over in the 2017 offseason to address the glaring weakness in net for what was an offensively-dominant team. On the contrary, Bishop is keeping a team that ranks 27th in goals per game afloat.
Bishop owns the third-best goals against average and is tied for the second-best save percentage for goaltenders that have played 15 games. If the Stars offense can find their firepower and combine it with Bishop’s performance, they could be in for an exciting spring.
2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (28 GP, 14-10-1, 2.23 GAA, .922 SV%)
Pekka Rinne has been the consistent net-minder for Nashville for 11 seasons. Each year, he has been the rock for the Predators team, standing tall even in some rough years. Outside of the 2013-14 season, Rinne has posted outstanding numbers.
This year is no different. Rinne holds the second-best goals against average among goaltenders who have played 15 games and is eighth in save percentage. Rinne has been spectacular and needed in what has been a tight Central Division race.
The Predators look to be the best overall team in the Central and possibly the Western Conference. Rinne’s consistently dominant play could lead his team back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
1. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (33 GP, 15-11-5, 2.61 GAA, .924 SV%)
The entire Ducks season up to this point has been placed upon the shoulders of their American-born goaltender. Gibson has been carrying the weight of a team that is battling injuries and aging stars. Despite their current five-game losing streak, they sit in the top Wild Card spot.
This is largely due to a huge season turned in by Gibson already. He has played in the second-most games among goaltenders this season. In addition, Gibson is tied for the fourth-best save percentage among goalies who have played at least 15 games. Above all, his best skill is just being available as he has stabilized the back end.
If the Ducks are to find postseason success, they will need to find a way to lessen the workload of Gibson.