Welcome to the final edition of this year’s Top 30 goaltenders. We’ve been through twenty of the top keepers in all the land over the last few weeks, but here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Just in case anyone missed the first two entries, they can be found here and here. The first one covers all the introductory info and criteria, so make sure to check that out if you haven’t already. Get your tar, feathers and NHL Network/ESPN/TSN Top 10 lists ready to waive in my face….here are my Top 10…
- Jonathan Quick- Los Angeles Kings (last year’s ranking: 4)
At age 30, Quick is what he is; a ridiculously gifted athlete who has the uncanny ability to make highly difficult shots look easy and easy shots look highly difficult. My favorite way to describe Quick is that he gets drunk on his own mobility. He knows he has elite tools and becomes overly reliant on them, rather than staying within him game in a more disciplined fashion, which, in my opinion, would be much more effective and give the Connecticut native far greater consistency.
That said, he can still put together streaks when he looks impossible to score on. He has a penchant for doing it in the playoffs, which is why he boasts two Stanley Cup rings. Certainly not the most conservative or reliable way to address your goaltending needs, but the talent/potential for dominance is absolutely undeniable.
- Corey Crawford- Chicago Blackhawks (last year’s ranking: 10)
Crawford is more or less the opposite of Quick. Having not been gifted with special athleticism or mobility, Crawford is a success story of adjustments. He has successfully compensated for a lack of elite tools with elite positional instincts and an incredibly simple, consistent technical game plan. There is no wasted talented with Crawford.
Over the past year or so, he has improved his flexibility and ice level game. His sliding mobility is far superior than it has been in recent past and he has widened his stance up to complement his deeper positional set up. This is likely a result of greater hip flexibility. Think of Crawford like the ultimate systems quarterback. He has tailored his style to the strengths of Chicago’s systems, and it has been a highly successful marriage.
- Roberto Luongo- Florida Panthers (last year’s ranking: 9)
What a story Luongo has been since leaving the Canucks two years ago. Since arriving in the Florida, Luongo has cleaned up his technical game considerably and has morphed into the consistent, battle tested leader in the crease for a young, entertaining Panther’s team. This is to mention nothing of his NHL best twitter account.
On the actual goaltending side, Lu has made significant adjustments in his positional discipline and has improved recovery and second save technique. In the past, he used to be caught out of position frequently on rebounds and lateral plays. He has remedied that be being less reliant on athletic saves and allowing his positioning and instinctual blocking style to really take over and allow himself more time to recover when the defense falters. Think of Luongo as a fine wine, just getting better with age.
This is going to be one of, if not the most controversial ranking on this list. Last year, I ranked Mason 14th on the back of a very strong season for the Flyers. I have always loved his talent, but after the performance his last few year’s in Columbus, I was a bit skeptical that he had fully turn the corner. Well, Mason has been elite for two full seasons now behind a very poor blue line in Philadelphia. Just in case you were wondering, that wasn’t hyperbole. Mason has been the definition of elite.
From a scouting standpoint, he has incorporated greater consistency into his post-integration techniques, like the VH and Reverse-VH, which has been an issue in the past. He has been a “whole is greater than the sum of his parts” on the tools side, but he has far greater poise and consistency than the showed anytime outside of his rookie season with the Jackets.
On the statistical side, he has been an advanced stats darling. His rate stats are nothing special, but that is more indicative of his team around him. No matter what metric you look at, he comes up aces. High-danger shots? Elite. AdjGSAA/60? Elite. Shot distance data? Elite. All for a terrible team. If you are a standard GAA/Sv% person, we are just never going to agree on Mason, but if you look beyond those stats, you see a very good goaltender in his prime years who would be the man in net for almost every team in the league.
- Ben Bishop- Tampa Bay Lightning (last year’s ranking: 11)
Bishop is an anomaly. It is extremely difficult for goaltenders his size to be as effective as he is. I have a mental block about Bishop because he still utilizes many dated techniques and hasn’t fully embraced modern mobility tools that could benefit his game greatly. However, his positional instincts, coupled with his size, create a goaltender that is almost impossible to score on when he is on his game.
Because Bishop’s game is really about maximizing blocking surface and maximizing positional efficiency, his appearance is highly technical out on the ice. He is a battler to some extent, but there seems to be an emotional disconnect when he is at his best. Not that it has been interpreted as a lack of effort or commitment, but I would speculate that some coaches view it as less of a personal interest in keeping the puck out of the net, like say Jonathan Quick has. Curious digression aside, Bishop is a very talented goaltender who should put up some very strong numbers for Tampa Bay this season.
Rask took a bit of a step back this season, partially because the Bruins, as a whole, took a big step back this season. From a scouting standpoint, it seems that Rask has fallen in love with/become a little too reliant on the reverse-VH technique (see photo). This has limited his ability to compensate for the declining net front coverage of the Bruins’ defense, which, I would conclude has eroded his high-danger save percentage.
This combined with his increased focus on integrating more athleticism into his style has taken a toll on his positional game/discipline. For this coming season, I would advise Rask to get back to basics and the core strengths of his game, as he certainly has the talent to remain in the upper echelon on the league for the foreseeable future.
- Braden Holtby- Washington Capitals (last years’ ranking: 5)
Our regular readers here know that I love me some Braden Holtby. The reigning Vezina winner had an absolutely ludicrous first half before slowing down somewhat in the spring. He still had a magnificent season overall and at age 26, is starting to move into those precious prime years. I believe that the biggest knock on Holtby last season was the lack of a reliable back up, which saw Holtby make 66 (!) starts for the Caps. No wonder he wore down a bit.
At this point, Holby is basically Quick 2.0, as he has all the elite carrying tools that made me enamored with his game way back in 2012. The difference is that Holtby currently possesses a far greater sense of discipline within his style and prioritizes positional efficiency to a much greater degree. He has shown that he can up his game in the post season and is a high-level puck handler, to boot. There are very few goaltenders out there providing the combination of talents that Holby brings to the table and I will only assume he will continue to rise up this list.
- Cory Schneider- New Jersey Devils (last year’s ranking: 7)
Schneider may the most criminally underrated goaltender in the NHL. Playing on a horrific NJ Devils team, Schneider has remained in the top tier of goaltenders working today. His positional efficiency is off the charts and makes the most out of every technique.
He is not flashy or particularly impressive in his execution, but it is highly effective and he makes many high difficulty shots look routine. If I had my pick right now, he would be the man in net for Team USA at the World Cup, which could finally show the world just how very talented Schneider is.
- Carey Price- Montreal Canadiens (last year’s ranking: 1)
The only thing keeping Price out of the top spot for the second year in a row are the recurring injuries that have sidelined him for the past year. Since this exercise is a one-year recommendation, it makes it tough for Price to repeat in the light of potential for re-aggravation and more missed time. Injuries notwithstanding, Price is still unfairly talented, with elite carrying tools across the board and a level of efficiency and poise rarely seen. He is truly a generational talent.
His play internationally is when he is the most entertaining to watch, as the Habs defense is fairly atrocious and he is routinely hung out to dry during the regular season. However, he always finds a way to buoy them up, which is what an elite goaltender does.
- Henrik Lundqvist- New York Rangers (last year’s rank: 2)
It seems only fitting that Hank reclaims his throne on the 5th anniversary of this list. Despite the absurd narrative that Hank had a “down year” last season (read this article that thoroughly dispenses with that notion), Henrik’s performance has never been better. Other lists have had Hank as far down as tenth, which is far more indicative of team performance than Lundqvist’s individual contributions to a very mediocre squad from 2015-2016.
Call me a homer if you want, but Lundqvist is still the best in the business and the statistics bear that out. While they do not paint a perfect picture, they are a testament to how spoiled we Rangers fans have become watching this level of excellence inhabit the Garden crease for the past decade. His consistency, durability and elite production have cemented his as both a future Hall of Famer and the top spot on this year’s list.
This concludes our rankings for this year. Thank you for reading and being a part of our community here at BSB. As always, this has been a very enjoyable exercise for me to put together, so if you have any feedback on format, analysis, criteria or other suggestions for next year’s list, feel free to drop me a line either in the comments, on twitter or via email. Have a great weekend, everyone!"Justin's 5th Annual Preseason Top 30 Goaltenders List (10-1)",