1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres – Miller established himself as the best in the game last year. With his stellar performance in the Olympics it elevated him over the rest of the league. Miller elevates the talent around him to allow the Sabres to compete for the playoffs ever year.
2. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks – Luongo has long been the standard bearer as one of the best back stops in the league. He has consistently put up great numbers for years and with the talent placed around him in Vancouver he will again be atop the league in all goaltender stats.
3. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils – Martin Brodeur is the greatest goalie to play the game. His level of consistency is amazing. Another 45 wins last year, as he continues to climb up the charts and own every record for the position. Talented on the blue line again, Brodeur should again be a solid choice as a top tier goalie.
4. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers – Lundqvist does more for his team than any goaltender in the league. Night after night he stands on his head to give the Rangers a chance to win. The talent up front is not as deep as the other goalies on this list, but his will to win is second to none.
5. Jonathan Quick, Los Angles Kings – Some could argue that the talent around Quick may be the best in the league. LA could be this year’s Chicago, as they are ready to take the next step in there growth process as a franchise. So Quick could be the most beneficial party.
6. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings – Howard was one of the major reasons the Red Wings made the playoffs last year. Howard is like most of the talent in hockey town solid in everything that he does. Howard is not spectacular at anything but he just keeps the puck out of his net.
7. Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers – Vokoun is the most underrated goalie in the league. He quietly stood on his head night after night, ranking third in the league in save percentage. You add that with 7 shutouts and Vokoun is a guy that could be a sleeper pick in the draft.
8. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins – Do it again Tuukka, that should be what most people feel about the goaltender in Boston. However when he was in net last year he was spectacular. 1.97 GAA in 45 games is enough of a picture to get an idea that Rask is going to be a top notch guy. Boston was one of the biggest disappointments last year so the franchise has a lot to prove and Rask is going to be a major reason why they succeed 2010-2011.
9. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes – His stats and numbers say he should be more highly ranked. However I am not sold on the team much less the goaltender. Anaheim gave up on this guy, put him up on the waiver wire. So there were red flags that the Ducks found in the player. Now if Bryzgalov and Phoenix duplicates last year then I will be the first to stand up and praise them. I only have Ilya rated this high based on how well he played last year. Could be the bust pick at his position.
10. Antti Niemi, Chicago Blackhawks – Niemi played well last year, some believe he could have been the Conn Smyth Trophy Winner in the Stanley Cup playoffs. No team has been hit harder by the Salary Cap this year then the champs. So was Niemi a product of the system and the talent around him or the reason the talent around him was able to take the next step and win it all. At press time Niemi was unemployed as the Blackhawks walked away from arbitration award.
11. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames – Has the ability to be great, he has proved in the past he can carry a less talented team to the Cup Finals. The Flames made a number of roster changes this offseason, but are they better??
12. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks – I think Hiller is a guy that can climb this chart in a hurry if he is ready to take the next step as unquestioned number one.
13. Semyon Varlamov, Washington Capitals – The best offensive talent in the game with the best player in the game in Ovechkin. Blue liners are solid but not great but Varlamov is going to be a major beneficiary of the talent in front of him.
14. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins – Did they win in spite of Fleury? Some people might argue that point. He is as up and down as the Dow Jones. Many changes in front of him this offseason so lets see which guy shows up in the playoffs, until then Fleury will benefit from a good team.
15. Jaroslav Halak, St Louis Blues – You lead your team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and traded in the offeaseaon. Did the Habs keep the right guy, well Halak is determined to prove them wrong and St Louis will reap the rewards. Are the Blues ready to make the playoff tourney this year. If Halak is great then the answer is year, but the talent in the West is going to keep the Blues on the outside looking in.
16. Craig Anderson, Colorado Avalanche – 38 wins 7 shutouts and a .910 save percentage, not quite what we have come to expect from Anderson. A guy that before last year never started more than 30 games. So was last year the rule or the exception, if it was the rule then Anderson climbs to the top 10 on this list.
17. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild – Just a steady goalie not more than that, if your team is decent he will give you a chance to win. Not much good or bad to say about Backstrom.
18. Carey Price, Montreal Canadians – Well be careful what you wish for Montreal, you got your chance and Price will be the guy this year. No more sharing with Halak, so its up to Price to prove to everyone that he can be the guy.
19. Antero Niittymaki, San Jose Sharks – Saw him an awful lot in Tampa last year and he can stand on his head at times but I still question if he is a legit number one guy. Can he give you great performances for 60 games and the playoffs. Well he is going to the frying pan in San Jose as they are a team who expects to contend for the Cup every year.
20. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators – Rinne is a steady goaltender who played well last year for the Preds. He gave the team enough confidence to allow Dan Ellis to leave in free agency this offseason. Rinne is a guy who is a lot like Backstrom from Minnesota, you could do a lot worse than Rinne as a second line guy.
21. Dan Ellis/Mike Smith, Tampa Bay Lightning – If the rest of the team is as good as advertised in Tampa then whoever is in net should benefit. The question is who will emerge as the number one guy in Tampa. Mike Smith has been injury prone the last 2 years but claims he is ready to make his mark and Ellis has never been given the chance to play 60 games as the go to guy. So which guy steps up and takes the bull by the horns. I think Ellis is the guy to do it but we will have to wait and see.
Best of the Rest
Guys that have questions, either about them or the team around them. They should be guys that are second or third guys on your roster.
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes
Chris Mason, Atlanta Thrashers
Pascal LeClaire/Brian Elliott, Ottawa Senators
Michael Leighton, Philadelphia Flyers
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Edmonton Oilers
Jean-Sebastien Giguere/Jonas Gustavsson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Dwayne Roloson- New York Islanders
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets