There’s no getting around it – this midseason edition of The Great Goalie Rankings looks a lot different than the preseason version. Like, a lot different. Raise your glove hand if you predicted Robin Lehner’s amazing turnaround with the Islanders. Or the backup revolution in Alberta. Or Sergei Bobrovsky’s fall from grace. It makes you wonder, what will the year-end edition of The Great Goalie Rankings look like?
We can address that in April. For now, here is how the NHL’s 31 starting goaltenders stack up as the all-star break approaches:
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas: He leads the league in wins and he’s top-five among starters in goals-against average. If he keeps it up, Fleury should be in line for his first-ever Vezina Trophy. The Golden Knights continue to be an amazing expansion story, and Fleury is at the center of it all.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: The Lightning are loaded at every position, and the crease is no exception. Vasilevskiy boasts one of the best save percentages – not to mention, one of the best winning percentages – in the league. If he hadn’t missed a month with injury, he’d likely be the Vezina frontrunner.
3. Frederik Andersen, Toronto: He was my pick for the Vezina at the midway point of the season, and he remains very much in the mix. Among starters, Andersen ranks near the top of the charts in wins, save percentage and GAA. And those numbers will only improve if the Leafs ever land that defensive defenseman they’ve been seeking.
4. Robin Lehner, NY Islanders: The Isles have been a huge surprise, and Lehner is a huge reason why. They might not believe this in Buffalo, but he leads all starting goalies in save percentage (.928) and GAA (2.11). He missed some time with injury – and has been sharing the load with almost-as-impressive Thomas Greiss – otherwise he’d be No. 1 on this list.
5. David Rittich, Calgary: Didn’t see this one coming. He began the season as the Flames’ backup, but Mike Smith’s stumbles opened the door to the No. 1 job and Rittich charged through. His record of 17-4-4 gives him the best winning percentage (.760) among NHL starters.
6. Ben Bishop, Dallas: The Stars’ stars have taken heat this season for failing to deliver, but Bishop must be the exception that proves the rule. He’s top-five in save percentage and trails only Lehner in GAA. Think where Dallas would be without him…
7. Pekka Rinne, Nashville: The reigning Vezina winner needs a big finish if he wants to repeat. It’s not out of the question, but the Predators will likely pace him the rest of the way so that he’s rested for the playoffs.
8. John Gibson, Anaheim: He’s easily the best thing in Anaheim this season. The Ducks just lost 11 in a row, yet he’s still among the league leaders in save percentage.
9. Tuukka Rask, Boston: A slow start, as is Rask tradition, was compounded by a stint on the IR. But he’s back on top of his game, riding a six-game winning streak and ranking third among starters in GAA.
10. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton: It’s been a banner year for Alberta-based goaltenders who began the season as backups. Just like Rittich in Calgary, Koskinen started the 2018-19 campaign as a benchwarmer, but he’s taken over the starting role from a faltering Cam Talbot. The Oilers would be a contender for the first overall draft pick, not a wild-card spot, if it wasn’t for Koskinen.
11. Jimmy Howard, Detroit: Guess he didn’t get the memo about how bad the Wings were supposed to be this season. They’re still pretty bad, but Howard is messing with their chances at the No. 1 overall pick.
12. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg: He’s one of the best young goalies in the game, but you’d like to see better numbers (2.82 GAA, .910 save percentage) considering the elite team in front of him.
13. Martin Jones, San Jose: Just win, Jonesy. His save percentage (.903) isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s second in the NHL in wins with 22, and that’s the bottom line.
14. Carey Price, Montreal: Well, well, well … look who’s back. Earlier this season, the Canadiens were winning almost in spite of Price’s play. Now they’re winning because of it.
15. Braden Holtby, Washington: He wasn’t that great in the regular season last year, and ended up a Stanley Cup champion. This season won’t be his best and it won’t be his worst – and nobody in Washington will care if he heats up in the post-season again.
16. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver: Consider this – the playoff-contending Canucks have a .586 points percentage when Markstrom is between the pipes, and a .321 mark when he isn’t.
17. Carter Hutton, Buffalo: Let’s face it, Lehner wasn’t working out in Buffalo. So the Sabres rolled the dice on a 30-something journeyman goaltender to be their No. 1, and the gamble has paid off.
18. Henrik Lundqvist, NY Rangers: The Rangers are in full rebuild mode, but Lundqvist is keeping them competitive night in and night out. With 445 career victories, ‘The King’ just tied ‘The Wing’ (Terry Sawchuk) for sixth place on the NHL’s all-time wins list.
19. Matt Murray, Pittsburgh: Due to Murray’s time on the sidelines, Casey DeSmith has played more games and has a superior save percentage and GAA. Still, if the playoffs started today, you know two-time Cup champ Murray would get the nod. The Penguins’ midseason turnaround coincided with his return to action – he won nine games in a row before losing in San Jose on Tuesday.
20. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota: If you’re a glass-half-empty type, you point to the fact Dubnyk has more regulation-time losses (16) than any other goalie. If your glass is half-full, you point at how much Minnesota relies on him – he’s third in the league in starts (37), with solid numbers (.912 save percentage, 2.64 GAA).
21. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus: He’s a two-time Vezina winner and his Blue Jackets are battling for first place in the Metro Division, so what’s Bobrovsky doing way down here? Well, his save percentage is down around .900, and his GAA is approaching 3.00. Not to mention, that mysterious blowup last week that resulted in an internal one-game suspension. So it’s not going exactly as the pending UFA planned, but an extended playoff run would change everything in a hurry.
22. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona: Things looked dire in the desert – even more dire than usual – when starter Antti Raanta was lost for the season in early December, but Kuemper has filled in admirably. His .914 save percentage ranks 11th among starting goalies.
23. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles: As the NHL turns on the speed, it’s kind of ironic that the Kings’ fastest player is their goalie. Kidding aside, the athletic Quick isn’t to blame for L.A.’s woes – unless you fault him for missing five weeks due to injury, of course.
24. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado: As goes Varlamov, so go the Avs? A promising start has given way to a worrisome swoon – he has won just once in his past seven decisions, and just twice in his past 11.
25. Petr Mrazek, Carolina: Scott Darling was waived to the AHL, while career backup Curtis McElhinney – a waiver-wire acquisition himself at the start of the season – played well when called upon but wasn’t going to be the full-on No. 1. So, almost by default, Mrazek got the job in Carolina. And as has been the case the past few seasons, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride.
26. Craig Anderson, Ottawa: The Senators have the worst GAA in the league, but you can’t pin it on Anderson, who backstops a rookie-laden club and faces more shots per game than any other starter. The Sens have a .516 points percentage when he’s in the crease, and they’re .333 when he isn’t.
27. Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey: The shine is coming off a bit. Kinkaid, so crucial to the Devils’ surprise playoff qualification last season, has struggled along with rest of the team to recapture the magic of a year ago. He’s down near the bottom among all starters in save percentage (.899).
28. Jake Allen, St. Louis: To paraphrase The Simpsons, “Here’s to Allen, the cause of, and solution to, all of the Blues’ problems.” OK, yes, that’s an unfair oversimplification — plenty of his teammates also deserve to be called out. But Allen’s only consistency seems to be inconsistency, and he’s way too prone to intermittent hot and cold stretches.
29. Brian Elliott, Philadelphia: This might sound crazy, but Elliott’s numbers were pretty good before he went down with injury in mid-November (.911 save percentage, 2.59 GAA). Since then, it’s basically been a tire fire in the Flyers’ crease. Philadelphia has trotted out seven goalies (and counting), none of whom have played in more than Elliott’s 14 games. Carter Hart, prepare thyself.
30. Roberto Luongo, Florida: Is Father Time finally catching up with 39-year-old Luongo? If not, the injuries are.
31. Cam Ward, Chicago: Thrown into the fire after Corey Crawford went down with another concussion, the veteran Ward has the worst save percentage (.884) and GAA (3.99) among the league’s 31 starters.