In the 2012 lockout shortened NHL season, fans of hockey saw a few outbreak performances from some unknown goalies. Household names like Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick continued to be great netminders, while others like Sergei Bobrovski and Craig Anderson almost came out of nowhere and stole the show. Storylines from Bobrovsky winning the Vezina trophy, to Marc-Andre Fleury falling apart in the playoffs made this season a unique one for goaltending.
The goalie may not just be the single most important position in hockey, but in all of sports, which is why this list of the top 30 goalies in hockey is so valuable. There are many goalies in this upcoming season that can move up or move down on this list. Lists like these are always subject to change, and rightfully so. Finding a consistent goalie in this league is difficult, but if you can, he will be the backbone of the team.
Note: This list is the best 30 goalies in hockey, not just starting goalies, which is why you may see two goalies representing the same fortunate team. Today I present you with #30 through 16. Be sure to check back tomorrow as we start at #15 and countdown to the #1 goaltender in the NHL.
30. Semyon Varlamov
You may have seen his mug in a commercial, but more importantly he’s coming off of easily his worst season to date. If Varlamov can’t turn it around this season, Colorado may be looking elsewhere in net. He’s still young, and has time to turn it around, but with a young Avalanche team, he will need to find a way to play consistent goaltending.
29. Ondrej Pavalec, Winnipeg Jets
Pavelec has been very inconsistent in net for Winnipeg, and i seriously considered leaving him off this list. His .905 Save % was the lowest of his career last season, and this up coming season will be make or break for the Czech netminder.
28. Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers
Emery filled in for an injured Corey Crawford in Chicago and went 17 – 1. Although playing behind such a great team, it gave him the opportunity to sign as a free agent where he will hopefully provide stability in net for Philly. Can it happen? For the Flyers sake, let’s just hope so. I don’t know if Ray is the definitive answer at goaltender, as many questions will need to be answered.
27. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
Halak’s season was shortened by injuries, but if he can get back to his 2011 form (just like as with Elliot), St. Louis will have the dynamic pairing in net they once had. Halak has had success, but will have to win the starting job back from Brian Elliot.
26. James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs
If not for a third quarter collapse in game seven against the Bruins, Reimer may have found himself a bit higher on this list. But alas, the Maple Leafs traded for Jonathan Bernier to bolster up goaltending, and Reimer has some real competition for playing time. I like Reimer, and since he is so young i expect to find him on this list come next season. If not, you know who won the starting job.
25. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bishop is very similar to Pekka Rinne in terms of size (6’7″), and the comparison is often made. Going in to a full season with one team will help him and Tampa can groom him for long term success.He and Andres Lindback will fight for the number one spot for the Lightning.
24. Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers
Dubnyk has been highly criticized by many Oilers fans, but is young and can grow as the team should make the playoffs this season. This next Edmonton season is a deal breaker with Devan, and if he doesn’t improve will have to look elsewhere for a goalie.
23. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders
Nabokov was asked to carry almost 100% of the workload last year in net. In an 82 game season, that cant happen. Nabokov is still a good goalie, but the days of him starting 65 games a year are long gone.
22. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs
Even though I’m high on Bernier, I believe there are many good goalies and it shows in his ranking. He can be a number one goalie, and this season is his time to shine. This may have been the only good move Toronto made this off season (It was).
21. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Fleury proved to be the most impossible player to rank on this list. If he can recapture his last 2000’s form, he can help Pittsburgh to another title. If he can’t, you wont find him on this list next season. There are no excuses this season playing behind such a star-studded lineup.
20. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Holtby had an all-around solid 2012 season. After being thrust into a 2011 playoff series versus the Rangers, he took over the reigns as the starting goalie in D.C. Holtby has the potential to shoot up the rankings this season.
19. Brian Elliot, St. Louis Blues
Elliot took over for Jaroslav Halak as the starting goalie in St. Louis due to an injury. Coming off of a Jennings trophy the season prior, the goaltending for the Blues took a big hit. Elliot had a decent performance, but it’s not close to his 2011 season. If he can get back to playing that way, he will earn his nineteenth slot on this list.
18. Mike Smith, Pheonix Coyotes
Smith has the potential to end this upcoming season as a top-10 goalie, but has shown throughout his career than consistency has been an issue. If he can find success behind an amazing Coyotes defensive system, and stick with it, Phoenix will be back in the playoffs.
17. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Luongo’s tenure in Vancouver has been odd to say the least. Management promises a trade, then trade’s the other guy. Either way, new coach JohnTortorella hopes to rejuvenate Roberto’s career, and get him back to Stanley Cup form. It can happen, it’s just remained to be seen.
16. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
Backstrom has been the starter in Minnesota since 2007. He has been a good goalie, quite steady and dependable, but not elite. Perhaps the product of a good system, Backstrom has had some success in Minnesota. That said, I don’t believe he is a top-15 goalie, and he will have much to prove with the strongest Wild team since he’s been there.
Remember to check back tomorrow beginning with #15 on our list, culminating in the #1 goalie in the NHL.
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