Well, here we are. The Top 10. We have covered my 31-11 ranked goaltenders over the past couple of weeks, but this is the main event. If you missed either of those entries, including all of our criteria and other housekeeping issues, feel free to check them out here and here. Now, I know we will all be in unanimous agreement that these rankings are wise and accurate, but in the unlikely event that there is the occasional disagreement, feel free to make your voice heard down in the comments section.
I present to you, the Top 10…
- Cory Schneider- New Jersey Devils (last year’s rank: 3)
Whether you are looking at advanced or traditional statistics, Schneider had a down year last season. There are a couple things to keep in mind here. First, is that Schneider plays for a god-awful Devils’ team, which is undoubtedly going to skew the stats a bit. Second, and more concerning, is that he plays a (comparatively) traditional style, which isn’t quite as effective against the current speed of the game once your athleticism slows down a bit. Since the BC alum is getting into his thirties, it is fair to start to wonder if and when that is beginning to happen. I am still very confident that he has several very good years remaining, but there is some cause for concern here.
- John Gibson- Anaheim Ducks (last year’s rank: 27)
Gibson took a major step forward this past season, which is particularly impressive given how the Ducks rushed him to the show a few years back. I thought it would take another year or so for Gibson to start putting up big numbers, but his talent apparently wouldn’t be denied. Gibson is one of those rare tenders who can match his athleticism up with technique and maintain his poise and concentration at a young age. A goaltender on the rise, don’t be surprised to see Gibson continue to climb this list into the league’s elite in the coming seasons.
- Jonathan Quick- Los Angeles Kings (last year’s rank: 10)
Quick is a funny case, he went from ridiculously overrated to almost underrated in just a couple seasons. There was a big rift between the traditional and stats community about Quick’s value a couple seasons ago, as he put up fairly pedestrian numbers in the regular season, but was seemingly able to elevate his game to super human levels in the playoffs. While he did miss a large chunk of this past season due to injury, Quick had a very strong advanced stats profile in a limited sample (17 games) upon returning, and looked a little less interested in running and sliding around his crease like a crazy person. He may have been a little timid from the injury, but I’m hoping he is embracing a more conversative game plan as he enters his thirties.
Cam Talbot is a true testament to what quality coaching and embracing your strengths can do for a goaltender. Talbot always had good athleticism and movement capabilities, but was very raw and reactionary. Benoit Allaire took those raw skills and Talbot committed to a game plan that would allow him to play into his strengths without giving away goals. He brought his crease depth back comfortably into the paint, he quieted down a lot of the excess movement in his stance and save execution and learned how to play within his game. It’s been quite the impressive feat for the University of Alabama-Huntsville product, joining the upper-echelon of NHL net minders.
Murray is a strange case to try to rank. One one hand, he has two Stanley Cups and ridiculous statistical profile, both traditional and advanced, especially for a 23 year-old. On the other hand, he has started a grand total of 60 games in his career and plays on an immensely talented Penguins team. Going under the hood a bit more, his style and skill level indicate to me that his current statistical performance are a good indicator of things to come. He has a technically disciplined style, tremendous athleticism and high-end vision. There are certain aspects of his game that still need fine tuning (footwork, post-recovery, etc.), however, his current skillset should allow him to develop those fringe skills and continue his trajectory into the elite of the elite. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m very bullish on Murray.
- Corey Crawford- Chicago Blackhawks (last year’s rank: 9)
Crawford had a little bit of a down year by his standards, but the Hawks’ as a whole were more inconsistent than we are used to seeing, and that doesn’t fall to their goaltender. Crawford is a goaltender you can set your watch to. He is about as consistent as any in the game, even if he doesn’t have the sexiest skill set. Many compare him to a systems quarterback, and that he is only successful because Chicago is so talented. It’s always possible that is the case, however, I think you would get similarly consistent performance profile from the Quebec native regardless of where he played. I know that doesn’t sound like high praise, but Crawford has spent his entire career being a rock, not a game stealer, so throwing out a bunch of superlatives about his game just wouldn’t be his style. The crazier thing is that he is going to turn 33 this season, which to me is nuts. I think his style will age gracefully, but he is entering those “are they/aren’t they” decline years.
- Sergei Bobrovsky- Columbus Blue Jackets (last year’s rank: 19)
Ever since Bob took over the starting gig in Columbus, he has begun to chip away at the criticism that he has a goaltender more interested in showing off his athleticism than committing to his craft. My ongoing concerns about the soon-to-be 29 year-old has been that flash over technique style that he played in Philadelphia, but no more. He has paired his elite athleticism with a structured technical base and it has created one of the very best goaltenders in the game. It’s no fun that he plays for a division rival, however there is always something satisfying about seeing another one get away from Philly. That and the fact that he is a well-spring of meme worthy material about being the worst cop on the force.
- Henrik Lundqvist- New York Rangers (last year’s rank: 1)
Now, before everyone gets all up in arms here, I’m going to remind you that this ranking is 1) not a ranking of the best performances from last season and 2) a recommendation about pursuing a goaltender for this coming season. I fully understand and acknowledge that Lundqvist had a sub-par season, both from the perspective of his own typical performance and the expectations set upon the Rangers. However, I am confident of Lundqvist’s return to form for this season. If you aren’t, that is your prerogative, but given my observations about his struggles last season and his competitive nature, I’m never going to bet against the guy. One day I will be wrong, but I’d be willing to wager its not this year.
- Braden Holtby- Washington Capitals (last year’s rank: 4)
If you have been reading my work here over the past few years, you know that I am a big Holtby fan. The guy pairs so many elite carrying skills together, it’s not even funny. This past season, under the tutelage of vaunted goalie guru Mitch Korn, Holtby took an even bigger step forward. He is basically Carey Price-lite at this point in his career, even if the guys in front of him can’t figure it out in the playoffs. The Caps have a rock back there who can not only steal games, but put up big numbers over the long grind of the season. At almost 28, he has a ton of good years left, but I’m starting to get concerned about the Caps squandering his prime as the Rangers have Lundqvist’s.
- Carey Price- Montreal Canadiens (last year’s rank: 2)
Oh, Carey Price. There really isn’t much more to say about the guy other than he takes what probably should be a lottery team and makes them a contender pretty much every year. The biggest criticism of Price at this point is that he can’t literally drag his poorly constructed roster directly to the Stanley Cup. Every one of his carrying skills is elite; vision, footwork, mobility, reflexes, recovery. You name it, it’s elite. His new contract is probably going to get very ugly at some point, but I’m really hoping that Price isn’t going to go his entire career without a Cup, even as distasteful as it would be as a Rangers fan to see the Habs win. The guy is a Hall of Fame talent.
There you have it. Like I said, wise and accurate. As always, this list was a blast to put together and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for making BSB a great New York Rangers community. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but we love getting your feedback. If you have any suggestions for next year’s list, or any BSB content, in general, feel free to shoot myself or any other the other writers and email or drop a line on Twitter. I hope you enjoyed the list as much as I did, and be sure to stay tuned to BSB for continuing Rangers coverage throughout the coming season!"Justin's 6th Annual Top 31 Goaltenders List (10-1)",