By Robert Mackenzie
“Save of the year,” is a phrase repeated dozens upon dozens of times every year, but actually determining the year’s best saves can be quite a tall task, for a number of reasons.
First of all, almost every diving save appears worthy of making the list and every stop that requires nearly inhuman levels of flexibility requires multiple viewings. And those how-did-he-stop-that saves are often the ones the give us the best reactions — the disbelief from players, fans and commentators alike as a moment of jubilation comes screeching to a halt.
But there’s also the matter of selling a save. Few things look better than a flashy glove stop, but is the stop itself worthy of making the list or did the showmanship help make a routine save appear to be highlight-reel quality?
After scouring hundreds of saves from throughout the hockey world, here are the 10 best stops of 2016:
10. Barry Brust’s windmill save — Oct. 13, 2016
Brust definitely sells the save for the KHL’s Bratislava Slovan, and it turns out that Brust has a history of making windmill saves.
Though he played only 11 NHL games for the L.A. Kings in 2006-07, Brust has forged a productive career in the KHL. He also passed Johnny Bower in the AHL record books a few years back. Now he can add the 10th-best save of 2016 to add to his resume.
9. Matt Murray upsets John Tavares — Nov. 30, 2016
Tavares looks distressed and truly sickened after Murray makes this ridiculous save during a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Tavares’ reaction is almost better than the diving glove save itself. With the way the Islanders have been playing this season, you can understand why.
8. Petr Mrazek has the best save of the World Cup — Sept. 19, 2016
This is a crazy sequence from the World Cup in September. While killing a 5-on-3, Zbynek Michalek briefly goes down after blocking a shot, Mrazek makes a save, loses his stick and then somehow manages to scoot across to catch Roman Josi’s shot while falling to the ground. Josi seems to bite his hand in response.
The Finnish commentator is saying, “Oh, what a save! Petr Mrazek robs Europe!” But it sounds a lot more exciting in Finnish.
7. Ryan Miller denies Henrik Zetterberg empty-net glory — Nov. 10, 2016
This may not have been a game-saver like others, and Zetterberg’s shot may not have even found the back of the net, but Miller gets style points for the dive and slide on this miraculous glove stop. He even gets some love from Zetterberg after the fact.
6. Kari Lehtonen shuts down Ivan Provorov’s celebration — Dec. 10, 2016
Lehtonen’s glove robbed Provorov of a goal and whatever celebration he was planning afterward. It’s not like Provorov shot this one right at the goalie either, Lehtonen really had to stretch to take this one away from the wide open net.
5. Michal Neuvirth sticks it to the Wild — Feb. 25, 2016
Neuvirth miraculously pulled off this stick save in the dying seconds to secure the win for Philadelphia. Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle finished the 2015-16 campaign with 21 goals, but that very easily could have been 22 were it not for Neuvirth’s larceny with the paddle.
4. Jeff Lerg’s jaw-dropping Hasek impression — Feb. 14, 2016
Jeff Lerg may not have his eye on an NHL starting job any time soon, but he had the hockey world talking with a Valentine’s Day save that it’s hard not to love. Lerg was all but beaten on an overtime rush by Fort Wayne Komets winger Garrett Meurs, but the Toledo Walleye netminder spun onto his back, reached out his glove and somehow made the stop. Toledo went on to win the contest in a shootout.
3. Ben Bishop cleans up mess with diving glove save — Nov. 17, 2016
One of Ben Bishop’s greatest assets is his puckhandling ability, but it almost appears as if he purposely turned the puck over on this one. But in spectacular fashion, Bishop managed to clean up his own mess by diving back in front of the net to rob Kyle Okposo.
2. Ilya Andryukhov’s save is the class of the KHL — Dec. 15, 2016
THN’s Jared Clinton already said pretty much all there is to say about this save. Andryukhov completely stole this one from a wide-open net and off of a one-timer to boot. At the time he made this save, Andryukhov had played less than three full games in the KHL. This stop wasn’t a bad start to his pro career.
1. Pekka Rinne throws his leg up on Bobby Ryan — Nov. 8, 2016
A left pad stop on a shot more than foot off the ice. That’s taking acrobatic saves to a new level. Poor Bobby Ryan.
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