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Justin’s 6th Annual Top 31 Goaltenders List (20-11)

Still cooler than any of us

Welcome to the second installment of this year’s Top 31 goaltenders.  I covered all of the introductory/methodology/housekeeping issues during the first portion of the list, which you can find here to bring yourself up to speed.  Otherwise, we are going to jump right in.  Here goes, goaltenders 20-11…

  1. Roberto Luongo- Florida Panthers (last year’s rank: 8)
Luongo- Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

After escaping the goaltending hell that was Vancouver (who could have thought Florida would be a better landing spot?) Luongo has had a renaissance of sorts back with the organization he got his start with.  His game slipped a bit this past year, but he was hardly the only thing that went wrong in Sunrise this past season.  I still like Luongo’s game to age well, but playing out his age 38 season, he isn’t as much as a guarantee of reliable performance at this stage.

  1. Ben Bishop- Dallas Stars (last year’s rank: 6)
Bishop- Sports Illustrated

A lot of discussion about Bishop’s true talent level took place after the Stars inked the Maine alum to a six-year contract this offseason.  He will turn thirty-one about a month into the season and that type of contract term is dicey for a goaltender that size.  My theory is that the Stars were looking for the stability between the pipes that they sorely lacked with Lehtonen and Niemi this past season, and were willing to over pay.  Bishop should be that guy (but not too much more) for the next few seasons, but I have a feeling the end of that contract will look ugly.  Bottom line on Bishop, he is a good, but not great goalie about to enter the years where his body control could become an issue.  Buyer beware.

  1. Thomas Greiss- New York Islanders (last year’s rank: N/R)
Greiss- Eurosport

The new starting goaltender for the Islanders has been criminally underrated for years (by myself, also), but he should get his chance to shine under the bright lights of Brooklyn? Uniondale? No idea.  Either way, his performance over the past few years has warranted a longer look as a starter, even if he is a little older for his first crack at the role (31).  I like Greiss’s technical discipline and quiet movements in net.  For a young Islanders team, he should bring some needed stability between the pipes.  My biggest concern is workload for the German born goaltender, as he has never played more than 57 games in a season.

  1. Scott Darling- Carolina Hurricanes (last year’s rank: N/R)
Darling- The Score

Another new starter, Darling is a lot like the last few Rangers’ backups to branch out to a new organization.  He has been a tremendous backup to Corey Crawford in Chicago the past few seasons (stealing the job from Antti Raanta, of all people) and is getting his first crack at the starting gig for Carolina at age 28.  Another tall tender, at 6’ 6”, he is extremely athletic, but his LD sv%  (low danger) over the past few years has lagged far behind his HD and MD percentages.  This tells me there may be some concentration/focus issues on the more routine plays, but the skill set is definitely there for a quality starting goaltender.

  1. Antti Raanta- Arizona Coyotes (last year’s rank: N/R)
Raanta- Harry How/Getty Images

Another year, another protégé of Benoit Allaire striking out to find a starting role beyond the shadow of Henrik Lundqvist.  Raanta had two brilliant seasons in New York and found himself shipped out to the desert with Derek Stepan at the Draft this offseason.  Like Darling, he will be taking the reigns for the first time at age 28, but will have a quality partner in Louis Domingue, should he falter.  I really like Raanta’s calm, smooth game and I believe he will find success with the ‘Yotes.

  1. Martin Jones- San Jose Sharks (last year’s rank: 13)
Jones- The Hockey Writers

Jones is a bit of a frustrating case.  His performance in San Jose has been consistently league average since taking over the crease there in 2015.  However, I believe there is a lot more talent in the twenty-seven-year-old Vancouver native.  He has the talent to be a top 10 goaltender in this league and refuses to bring himself to that level.  Hopefully, something clicks and he fully realizes his ability, but even if he doesn’t, he is still talented enough to backstop a contender, he just won’t live up to that shiny new six-year deal.

  1. Frederik Andersen- Toronto Maple Leafs (last year’s rank: 17)
Andersen- The Athletic

Andersen has made consistent strides in improving his technique and adjusting to the NHL game.  His first year as the starter for a young Leafs team got off to a very rocky start, but he made adjustments and was able to finish the year strong.  I like his calm net presence for a young team, and while he may not make the headlines and highlight reels like some of his teammates, his stability and consistency (which I believe he has established) should be very beneficial for an organization on the rise.

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury- Vegas Golden Knights (last year’s rank: 12)

Fleury created some very positive press for himself this offseason, first graciously stepping aside to allow Matt Murray to take the starting job for the Penguins by allowing himself to be selected in the Expansion Draft by Vegas. Then, on his way out of town, went ahead and donated a playground to the Boys & Girls Club in Pittsburgh.  Good guy credentials in tow, the move to Vegas is a good opportunity for Fleury to get a fresh start with no one looking over his shoulder.  Granted, his team is going to be atrociously bad, but I guess at least there are casinos?

  1. Devan Dubnyk- Minnesota Wild (last year’s rank: 11)

Dubnyk was a tale of two analyses last season.  On the surface, he had a shiny .923 save percentage and a very reasonable 2.25 GAA.  If you dig a little deeper, though, his advanced statistics had the underlying performance at roughly league average.  The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but I still like Dubnyk to be a quality performer this season, even if he settles in as the nice, consistent option, rather than the guy stealing games at this stage of his career.  That said, the Wild are going to need him to be a big performer this year if they are going to make any noise in the playoffs.

  1. Tuukka Rask- Boston Bruins (last year’s rank: 5)

When you get to this point in the rankings, “rough year” becomes a bit relative.  This is exactly what happened to Rask last season.  His underlying stats slipped across the board, which could be a product of a pretty brutal roster construction model in Boston, or it could be the beginning of a slow decline for a guy who’s style puts an awful lot of strain on his hips.  I would put my money on the former, but the dip in performance can’t be ignored.  Don’t be surprised to see Rask bounce back into the top 10 for next season.

As you can see, this section is a bit odd in that it was a mix of newly minted starters combined with vets who have slipped a bit from their former glory.  The Top 10 is on deck, make sure you stop by next week to see the final segment and don’t forget to sound off about the rankings in the comments below.  Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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  1. Excellent analysis Justin; although I suspect all the embittered Hank Haters will once again be apoplectic that you have obviously decided that Hank should remain in the Top 10!

    I suspect most scouts, coaches and GMs would concur with your rankings to this point (other than Rinne and Anderson being too low on your previous submission). Well done!

    1. You can’t hate on people questioning Hank these days. To be fair, he posted a mediocre 31-20 W-L last season, with a .910 SV%, 2.74 GAA, and only two shutouts. Those aren’t elite stats, but, yes the defense in front of him was a nightmare. However, with the same defense, Raanta (in a slightly smaller sample size) went 16-8, with a .922%, a 2.26 GAA, and four shutouts.

      Hank was clearly the second best goalie on the team last season.

      1. That’s a complete overstatement. The 2nd best goalie on an NHL team is not the goaltender who starts every playoff game. That’s just a tip for future viewing.

        Hank will bounce back this year to his usual .920 save percentage. And to all the Hank Haters (who should’ve already had their fill of eating crow after Lundqvist outdueled Carey Price in the playoffs, mind you)–get ready for some more crow.

        And by the way–that’s twice he’s beaten the Canadiens in the playoffs, to go along with beating Brodeur, Holtby, Fleury, et al.

        1. And Lundqvist is the only reason the Rangers have won the Cup the last twelve years in a row. Hey, if you are just going to say stuff, why not go all the way. Lundqvist outdueled Price, but the team lost to Ottawa?? Really, Hank wins, but the team loses. The reality this year is that the Rangers had better skaters than either Montreal or Ottawa. They should have won both series if they could just hold their own in goal. [They would not have gotten past the Pens without superior goaltending however.]

          Now holding your own against Carey Price is not easy and Hank was up to the task. [I don’t agree that he outplayed Price, but he was at least equal and that was good enough.] Against Ottawa, he was fine until the puck bounced in off his back and he just gave up.


          The goalie who starts every playoff game is not the best goalie or the second best goalie, but the goalie the coach chooses. It is a simple fact that Raanta had a better season than Lundqvist. Which goalie should have been used in the playoffs is a matter for debate – the better year or the better career. HOWEVER, it is rather disingenuous to call AV an idiot for playing Girardi and Glass while citing his choice to play Lundqvist as proof that Hank was better than Raanta.

          JFTR, I would have stuck with Hank in the last game – even expecting him to lose it. I thought Raanta a better bet to get to the Penguin series, but Hank a better bet to win it.

          1. Your stuff is comedy gold, Ray. To suggest that Raanta gets NYR to the EC final is a joke. If Raanta is lucky, he should actually be in position to play in the playoffs by the year 2020.

            And yeah, Lundqvist was the Rangers’ best player vs Montreal. Maybe if his coach hadn’t been a total idiot with his endgame defensive rotations against Ottawa he’d have had his shot to beat the Penguins. Again. As he’s already done twice in his career.

          2. Yes, but let’s not forget that he shat the bed in games 5 and 6 of the Ottawa series, giving up eight goals and post SV% in the mid .800s

          3. Let’s not forget you’ve already invalidated any of your criticism by proposing that a goalie with no career playoff starts is a superior netminder to a generational talent like Henrik Lundqvist. Let’s also not forget how fickle and spoiled some Ranger fans are by the run of success that has coincided EXACTLY with the career of Henrik Lundqvist.

          4. Easy question: What would have happened if Raanta had started Game 6 against Ottawa?
            Answer: We don’t know. Simple really. Of course, had Raanta started and things had gone badly, AV may very well have lost his job. So it couldn’t happen.

            But really, suppose you listed the forty best tenders in the NHL. Suppose I told you that one of these guys would be in a zone, really hot, and the other 39 would play at their usual level. Who would you want in a seven game series – Price, Lundqvist, or the hot guy, or whoever? I want the guy in a zone frankly. Guys like Lundqvist are flat out better than say Skapski or Hellberg, who could never match him even on their best days. But NHL tenders are all pretty good – not all equal and not all consistent, but all capable of outplaying Lundqvist on an average Hank day.

            If everything went right, the Rangers could have won the Cup with Talbot or Raanta. Not saying they should have tried, but success was not implausible.

            Of course, Hank could have won a Cup by getting hot too – he just never has sustained it. Thought it might happen this year actually – until he lost a game with a puck off his back and emotionally threw in the towel.

      2. The question I have for the fans questioning Hank, is do they watch the games and see the defense in front of him?

        Problem is that we’re so used to seeing him cover the butts of the players in front of him that when he’s not “God like” then he looks ordinary.

        Playing in that stupid preseason NHL World tournament at 35 years of age doesn’t help. Not blaming his play on that but it does have a cumulative effect after a while.

        Hank still faces the highest # of high danger shots in the league through last year. But for some reason that fact doesn’t get talked about in the infamous “Hank bashing” comments.

        1. Granted, Raanta was a half goal per game better than Hank because he had a much better defense in front of him.

          Actually, there just is not much Hank bashing or Hank hate that I have detected — and certainly not from me. Nothing like what Girardi, Staal, Stepan, Holden faced. Just a questioning of his godliness.

          You have a player whose team has not missed a beat when he has not been in there for four years. Part of that is that his backups were highly capable tenders, but part of it is that Hank is more good than unreal.

          1. Here’s the thing, Ranger fans advocate replacing a HOF goalie with a guy that has barely played a whole NHL season’s worth of games in his entire career. Is that rational thinking?

            Is there any thought to the fact that playing 60+ games vs. 25 games is a huge difference and that fatigue, both physical and mental, comes into play and affects the goalie’s overall play?

            Game 7 for the Cup, I can pick any goalie, I pick the King over any other goalie. And that includes Canadian media Golden Boy Price, who makes all the saves he should make and skews his save % to what it is.

          2. OK, so if it is too hard to play 60+ games, don’t make him do it. And you are missing the point of the discussion. There is a huge difference between saying Lundqvist is a hack and Lundqvist is not a god. What I and most others who question Hank’s value say is that Hank is not a god. There is a difference between saying Raanta is better than Hank and saying that the two goalies are comparable.

            As for replacing a HOF goalie with a kid, if the Rangers had the chance to replace Lundqvist with Murray at this point, it should be a no-brainer.

            Here is reality. The Rangers were awful in 2005. They had been awful at some time. The fans were in such of a hero and in search of success. Things began to change in 2005. No one wants to spread the credit around (just human nature) – no one wants to say our team is just a little bit better in many ways. They want to put it all on one or two guys. Let’s forget about Jagr, who has already not delivered us. The designated savior was Mr. Lundqvist. As saviors go, he was more deserving than most. He was a truly great goalie for the first half of his career, culminating in a well deserved Vezina.

            But habits die hard. The Rangers are not a bad team with a good goalie. They have been a very good team (maybe not this year) and all of the TRUE evidence says that over the last four years, Hank has added no value to the team. Granted, the Rangers have had good backups and it is certainly possible that Dallas could have won the Cup in 2016 with hank in net.

            But let’s be clear about what is really going on in this discussion. This is not about Lundqvist. This is about Girardi, Zuccarello, Stepan. There is only so much glory to go around.

          3. “all of the TRUE evidence says that over the last four years, Hank has added no value to the team.”

            I don’t even know what to say to this other to say that I know that I cannot change your mind.

            But I can say this, did the Rangers have elite players other than the one in nets that I don’t know about? McD is the only one in that conversation and he was tied to an anchor in #5 and the coach that paired them up.

          4. Here is the evidence. First of all, I think the Rangers have had roughly average playoff results for a team with their record. They are not in the same league with the Kings (who step it up) or the Caps (who fall flat). Their results are more or less typical. So it seems fair to judge the Rangers on regular season performance.

            As a regular season team, the Rangers have been better when Hank does not play than when he does play – over the past four or five years. There is a huge amount of data here. With so much data, we don’t have to rely on perception or subjective stats (e.g. high danger shots). Now there is not so much data that one can reject the hypothesis that Hank is every bit as good as Talbot and Raanta. But it seems absurd to say that he is better for the team in theory — and in practice, there is no question whatsoever. Whether or not the Rangers should have been better with Hank in net or not, they simply have not been – in the only sense that matters — they don’t win more.

            You can argue all you want, but this is fact, not opinion. In defense of Hank, not being more effective than Talbot or Raanta is not a great condemnation. They are good tenders. I also will say that I don’t understand why all of this is true. What seems to be the case is that the Ranger defense stinks when Hank is in net and is pretty good when he is not. Hank and Raanta face a very different mix of shots. Why? It may be that Hank has certain weaknesses and compensating for them kills the defense — or maybe they are just following his whims. Either way, he isn’t really helping the team.

            And of course, the reason goalies don’t net that much in trade is because they are simply not that valuable. I’d suspect that using the same sort of wins added stuff they do in baseball we might see Girardi was more valuable over his career than Hank. When a first pair defenseman goes down, you have to replace him with the 7th defenseman and that really hurts.

          5. Honestly, who cares about the regular season other than to make the playoffs? Ask the Caps how important it is to win the President’s Trophy when they can’t make it to the ECF. And that’s with HOF goalie Holtby in nets.

            Was Hank at his best this past year? Nope, I know and I admit that. But if players like Kreider, Stepan, Miller, Hayes, etc. actually showed up to play these playoffs and AV wasn’t losing 2 Ottawa series playoff games with his absolutely stupid D men deployments, then they would have been playing the Pens in the ECF, where the Rangers probably would have been crushed but at least got to play in the ECF.

            And if you want to talk regular season, if not for the lockout, Hank would have been the ONLY goalie in NHL history to get at least 30 wins in 11 consecutive seasons to start a career. No goalie has ever done that. But if you think that those wins are a byproduct of the “talent” in front of the King then I don’t know what to say any more.

          6. I think you are a smart and reasonable guy, but you just have blinders on here. First, let me say the Yost article is basically opinion. Also let me say that that I am talking about the last 4-5 years, not Hank’s whole career. However, it is crucial to understand the stats Yost is using. Those stats tell us that, with Lundqvist, Ranger goal prevention is vastly better if you count saves than you would expect it to be if you just look at shots. OK, in theory that sounds pretty good. However, it presupposes two things: that you really can assess high danger shots and that the goalie does not have a real impact on the shots that he faces. Logically, you think these are not serious concerns, but we don’t really know unless we anchor the stats with truly objective ones.

            What i see in these stats are two conclusions that I find absurd. One is that, ignoring saves, the Rangers are a horrid defensive team when Lundqvist is on the ice and a reasonably good one when he is not. The other is that, according to the 2015-2016 numbers, Lundqvist is far better at his job than Gretzky was at his.

            Finally, regular season vs. playoffs: The stats say that Lundqvist does not outperform his backups during the regular season. The stats also say that Lundqvist, on balance, does not rise to the occasion in the playoffs; he performs at roughly the same level. Yes, he steps it up sometimes – Pitt in 2014, game sevens, but he also has clinkers – Pitt in 2016, Ottawa in 2017. There is simply no reason to focus on playoff performance – except that it sidesteps comparisons with backups because they don’t play.

            On Game 7s, it is amazing how people who rightfully dismiss Cam Talbot’s incredible 2013-2014 season because of small sample size worship a sample one third the size.

            I just can’t see how judging someone by the criteria “How did his performance compare with someone else in his place?” is not the best method – if you can do it. And here we have just such data – and we have lots of data.


            Incidentally, we don’t have to like the best players. The thrills one gets from watching Pekka Rinne are completely different from the thrills one gets from watching Henrik Lundqvist. Ignoring team loyalty, one could easily vastly prefer one to the other without a clue or a care as to which was more effective.

          7. I definitely acknowledge that the King had a “down year” by his standards, this past year. If it happens again this year then it’s a trend, especially with what is expected to be a much better D corps in front of him.

            But I don’t think so. I think that he bounces back and one of the biggest reasons is he will be refreshed psychologically. What do I mean by that? He will see that management has done what it can do to improve the D in front of him. In short, the King was tired of constantly bailing his team out over the years, IMO. So I think that he bounces back this year.

            As for Yost’s article, every stat line is biased, it can’t be helped. I find Yost to be pretty fair in his assessments and in the way he presents his case. Admittedly, this article supports what I am seeing and what I think, so of course I am presenting it here. But there has to be some merit to it because I didn’t write it, someone else thought enough of this topic to make an article out of it.

        2. Rich you make it like all the other teams goalies don’t make saves when the D messes up

          1. I don’t believe that I said that. What I did say is that Price’s save % against high danger is not as good as people give him credit for.

    2. People may react, but no one is actually appalled to see Lundqvist in the top ten. Some did criticize Justin for putting him in the top 20, but that was just to get under your skin, I’m sure. There is a huge difference between my own opinion – that Hank is highly overrated (being viewed as a god frankly) – and the ridiculous notion that he is a bad tender.

      JFTR, few would precisely concur with Justin. Justin is not trying to figure out how people in the game think; he is interested in how they should think. He follows his methodology in a clear fashion and is one again producing a fine list.

      I disagree on two points. First, I think he overvalues goalies like Hank and Braden Holtby who simply defend the net and undervalues those like Rinne, Fleury, Talbot, Murray who have more impact on the whole game. [Even so, I think I concur in putting Hank above Fleury.] Second, he is more impressed than I by HD, MD, LD shots. [Personally, in principle, they are very important. In practice, I think we can’t apportion them yet – different goalies have different weaknesses.]

      But the fact that Justin’s perspective is not mine makes the list more valuable, not less. And when it comes to assessing high danger shots, it should happen someday, maybe 2021, maybe 2015. I feel confident that Justin jumped on the bandwagon too early and that, when all is said and done, I will be too late.

      I do think Dubnyk is a top five goalie though.

      1. I agree on Dubnyk Raymond. Murray gets proverbial over rating because he plays behind a stellar possession team.

    3. Just because Ranger fans aren’t afraid to say the King has no goalie equipment on doesn’t make them Henk haters. It’s kindof ridiculous that a fan is ridiculed for simply giving a honest assessment of Leakys mediocre performance last year.

      1. Speaking of ridiculous… how can you call him ‘the King’ … but then so quickly revert back to your ‘leaky’ moniker in the same paragraph?

        The guy carries the franchise for a decade straight with comically bad defense & lackluster lineups, has 1 ‘meh’ year, and this is the thanks he gets?

        1. To be fair, the Rangers had really good defense for years, especially under Torts. And they haven’t had “lackluster lineups” since 2010 when Erik Christensen was centering the Gaborik line.

          1. “The Rangers have had a really good GOALIE for years.”

            There, I fixed it for you.

          2. Paul Mara, Nick Holden, Christian Backman, Michael Del Zotto, Karel Rachunek (RIP), Wade Redden, Bryan McCabe, Stu Bickel, Dylan McIlrath, Matt Gilroy, Marek Malik.

            At one time or another most of these horror shows listed above were at least playing in the second D pairing (or higher) for Hank during his Ranger career.

            Who made who look good here?

  2. Another good list here–particularly agree with that Martin Jones analysis, he’s a guy who’s been a bit of a puzzle. Andersen is a solid pick as well. My only disagreements would be with where you have Bishop and Rask. I think Rask deserves to be a few notches lower & Ben B a little higher….although I can see Bishop’s poor injury history playing into your assessment.

  3. Here’s more defensive excellence from Lundqvist’s past: Jason Strudwick, Steve Eminger, Jeff Woywitka, Chris Summers, Corey Potter, Eric Reitz, and Mike Kostka. Or Thomas Pöck, Justin Falk, Rafael Diaz, and Aaron Ward.

    Yeah, it’s all on Hank that the Rangers haven’t won a Cup in his time with the team.

    1. LOL, yep.

      Again, for the millionth time, whatever Ranger playoff success they have had from 2005 until now is because of the King as opposed to the players in front of him, not the other way around.

      1. Richter, I think I flew into a blind rage while compiling that 2nd list of crappy defensemen….Jeff Woywitka was the name that did it to me.

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