Injuries have wreaked havoc on the NHL’s status quo in net this season, though the teams affected haven’t necessarily been killed because of it. No Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles? No problem. Viktor Fasth on the shelf in Anaheim? Enter Frederik Andersen to platoon with Jonas Hiller. What it has done is make the Vezina Trophy race very tough to peg right now. But here’s our first installment nonetheless, ranking the NHL’s top goaltenders.
1. Josh Harding, Minnesota
Niklas Backstrom was the nominal starter coming in, but Harding has been the breadwinner, dominating the NHL with a .939 save percentage and 1.48 goals-against average. And he’s doing it while afflicted by multiple sclerosis, making his consistency all the more incredible. He recently missed a start after slipping on a puck during warmups, but is expected back very soon.
2. Ben Scrivens, Los Angeles
Here’s the trickiest one. Scrivens is technically a backup, but with Quick gone long-term, he’s going to be carrying the water for the Kings for the next little while. In 13 appearances, he’s got the same 1.48 GAA as Harding, but a superior .947 save percentage. Not to mention three shutouts to Harding’s two. Tough to say if he’ll have enough starts by the end of the year to warrant a vote, but for now he’s up there.
3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay
Last year Tampa needed goaltending and didn’t get it, missing the playoffs as a result. This season, the towering 6-foot-7 Bishop has been outstanding and the Bolts are humming along, despite the loss of Steven Stamkos up front. Bishop’s 14-3-1 record is one of the best marks in the league and his save percentage is a burly .931.
4. Carey Price, Montreal
Not only could this be a great year for Price on the Habs, but he’s also putting himself in position to nab a spot on Canada’s Olympic team, potentially as starter. Montreal is beginning to warm up and Price has done his part, limiting opponents to two goals or less in his past six appearances.
5. Tuukka Rask, Boston
It helps to have a great team in front of you, but Rask pulls his weight on the Bruins, killin’ it with a .936 save percentage, 1.89 GAA and solid 13-6-1 record. Plus, his competitive spirit fits right in on the Boston roster – just watch the tape when he loses a shootout.
6. Antti Niemi, San Jose
He was their MVP last season and this year Niemi has been just as crucial for the Sharks, ringing up an impressive 13-3-5 record to go with a 2.15 GAA and two shutouts. The acid test will come in the post-season, however; Niemi already has a Stanley Cup, but can he help bring one to San Jose?
7. Robin Lehner, Ottawa
Like Scrivens, Lehner is technically a backup playing like a starter. The difference is Lehner’s partner isn’t hurt; Craig Anderson is just in a ditch. So the young Swede has a chance to seize the reins in Ottawa for a longer term if he can maintain his numbers, which currently include an exciting .937 save percentage.
8. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado
While the Avs’ scorching start has cooled off considerably, Varlamov still has some solid numbers. A line of 12-6-0 with a .932 save percentage and 2.14 GAA is pretty hot, though the Russian has slowed down of late and does have that nasty legal problem hanging over his head.
9. Corey Crawford, Chicago
Yes, he plays on one of the best, most responsible teams in the NHL, but Crawford still has to stop the pucks directed at him and he’s done that so far. His gaudy 16-4-3 record sticks out the most, but he has also been one of the busiest netminders on the circuit, appearing in 23 games already.
10. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis
Like Crawford, Halak plays on an incredible team with great defense, but he has wrested the platoon away from Brian Elliott this season, earning the crease with a stingy 2.14 GAA and impressive 14-3-2 record. Halak has made playoff magic in the past and Blues fans are hoping he can do it again.