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THN.com Blog: Ranking the playoff goalies

Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres is the odds-on favorite for the Vezina Trophy this season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres is the odds-on favorite for the Vezina Trophy this season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

As evidenced by the fact 14 Conn Smythe Trophies have gone to the men between the pipes over the years (second only to centers with 15), it’s no secret good goaltending is a key to playoff success.

There’s certainly evidence of teams getting by with crease play that’s just OK, but no collection has ever raised Stanley with a subpar stopper.

This season’s playoffs, more than any other in recent memory, are overflowing with participants who have questions about their keepers. So with that in mind – using regular season play and historical playoff performance as the criteria – let’s run down this year’s 16 starting masked men based on who you’d most want in a seven-game series.

PLAYOFF GOALIE RANKINGS
1
Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller Only four career playoff series wins, but put up numbers (40-18-8, 2.23 GAA, .928 SP) that will net him Vezina and maybe Hart honors.
2
New Jersey Devils Martin Brodeur Another underrated regular season; leads the league in shutouts (nine). Most important: How can you argue 98 all-time playoff wins, second in history?
3
Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury Regular-season resume isn’t nearly as impressive as others’, but his 30 playoff wins – and one Cup ring over the past two years – is far more than anyone not named Osgood, who has 29.
4
Phoenix Coyotes Ilya Bryzgalov The main reason, beyond Dave Tippett, for Phoenix’s surprise rising in the West. ‘Cool Bryz’ has the tools to win a series on his own. Can you believe he was once on waivers?
5
Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo Canada’s golden boy has lost his shine in his post-Games play with the Canucks and questions still linger after last year’s Game 6 debacle vs. Chicago, but Louie still stands tall and now has experience.
6
Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask Benefits from playing behind an ultra-tight system, but has league-leading GAA (1.97) and SP (.931). Tough to put big bet on rookie under playoff pressure, though.
7
Montreal Canadiens Jaroslav Halak No playoff wins to his credit, but has been a large part of Montreal’s second-half resurgence. Post-season performance may very well determine whether he or Carey Price is Montreal’s future.
8
San Jose Sharks Evgeni Nabokov Despite great teams in front of him, has only led the Sharks to one conference final in six full tries. Fold-job against Canada in Olympics doesn’t help.
9
Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard The 26-year-old freshman wrestled the job from Chris Osgood based on impressive play during his first full year, but had a 12-17 American League playoff record with a SP below .900.
10
Washington Capitals Jose Theodore Numbers are gaudy, especially since the Olympics, but every time I watch a Caps game there’s a soft goal or three that find their way past the former Hart winner.
11
Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne A common theme on this list, the big Finn was a co-No. 1 until pulling away at mid-season, but hasn’t seen a minute of NHL post-season play. Does possess the tools to steal a game (or maybe a series?) on his own.
12
Chicago Blackhawks Antti Niemi Another first-year goaltender handed the reins, the flashy Finn doesn’t have to win games for the talented Hawks, he just can’t lose them.
13
Colorado Avalanche Craig Anderson Would have been much higher on this list if the playoffs started two months ago, but the Avs have since fallen badly; almost out of the playoffs.
14
Los Angeles Kings Jonathan Quick Followed a similar path to Anderson in that a fast start turned into a late struggle. The 24-year-old, with zero NHL post-season experience, has been a workhorse with 71 games-played.
15
Ottawa Senators Brian Elliott Pascal Leclaire was supposed to be the man in the Canadian capital, but the 25-year-old Elliott grabbed the reins with his consistency. Has never played a pro playoff game, though.
16
Philadelphia Flyers Brian Boucher Only playoff goalie with GAA under .900 and a losing record. Don’t be surprised to see Johan Backlund if he gets healthy.

Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears weekly.

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Did the Ottawa Senators overpay Craig Anderson (3 years, $4.2 million per season)?




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