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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Top 5 Eastern Conference Goaltenders

This idea just sort of hit me while I was ranting on my Penguins blog about their loss to the Islanders last night. Mainly I'm upset with how Ty Conklin has been playing as of late and wonder why we keep putting him in the net when Dany Sabourin hasn't seen action since mid February. Check it out if you have a couple minutes, but it got me thinking about about the playoffs and who some of the best goalies in the league are.

Before we get into the top 5, I want to direct your attention to a new link in my frequently visited sites. Gopher introduced me to a free sports betting site. Seriously, it's free and you can win real money. Here's how it works. The site gives you a dime in ad money that they receive for you to place bets on real games with. Once you reach 10 dollars, you can cash out. If you lose the 10 cents, just reload and try again. I'm dead serious. It's free to sign up, so if you want to check it out here's the link to CentSports.com

Rather than pick the obvious best five from the entire league, I'm going to do this by conference and include highlight videos of each guy for your own enjoyment. So here we go.

#5 Cristobal Huet - Washington Capitals

I still can't get over how the Caps plucked Huet away for next to nothing. On the year he's 24-16-6 with a 2.46 GAA and a very impressive .917 save percentage.

He's been absolutely fantastic for the Capitals as well. He's splitting time with Olaf Kolzig, but has been a big reason the Caps may make the playoffs. As of this moment, the Capitals trail the Bruins by two points for the final playoff spot in the East.

Huet has started seven games for the Caps, going 5-2 with a 1.93 GAA and an amazing .927 save percentage.

I'd be willing to bet that Huet fantasy owners were none to impressed at the deadline with seeing their number one goalie traded to a non-playoff team. I'd also bet if you talked to them now they would be happy with his performance so far and only slightly annoyed that he splits time.

If you are in a keeper league, you have to love the prospect of having this guy around for a couple years at least.



Couldn't find much of his highlights as a Capital, but I'm sure this video explains the point a little better.

#4 Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins

Is this kind of a homer pick? Slightly. I'd rank him higher on this list, but I'm sure you would all jump down my throat on it so I think this is a fair placement given the rest of the Eastern Conference goalies.

What you don't get a full appreciation of while watching Fleury on television, is just how quick he is. I remember the first time I watched him play on tv and I was blown away by how quick his legs are. I honestly don't think there is a guy with quicker legs in the league right now.

The kicker is that he looks even quicker in person and it's not just his legs. Let's flashback to NHL re-launch night. The Penguins were in town to play the Devils and it was Sidney Crosby's NHL debut. Three of us got tickets the day of the game. Shocking right? Not for Devils games it isn't.

Anyway, at one point there was a 2-on-1 for NJ. I don't remember the players specifically, but a pass was made over the sprawling defenseman to Fleury's left. In one motion Fleury moved over and plucked the rocket of a one-timer out of the air. Upon further review he actually caught the puck behind him and held on for the whistle.

Had it not been for the high-ankle sprain he suffered this season, he would be up among the league leaders in wins. Currently he is 15-9-1 with a 2.61 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Since returning from the injury he is 6-1.



I chose that video for two reasons. First, I love Godsmack who performs the song heard there. Secondly I was in Boston for the save you see and I about dumped my drink on the person sitting in front of me when he made that save.

#3 Ryan Miller - Buffalo Sabres

Here's a kid I feel bad for right about now. He's seen almost his entire defense corps go down to injury and yet he's still going out every night and battling the best he can.

I don't care who you are, without a team playing defense in front of you and clearing away rebound chances and such, you won't be putting up good numbers. Even Patrick Roy was getting shelled in Montreal before he demanded a trade.

I am happy that come 2010 when the NHL pauses mid-season to send guys to the Olympics that Miller should be on the roster, if not the starter for Team USA. He really should have gone to the 2006 games as well, but I digress.

On the year Miller is 33-25-9 with a 2.60 GAA and a .909 save percentage. I'm still shocked he's putting up those kind of numbers with half the team they had from last year. The Sabres are only three points out of the playoffs right now. Now, I don't exactly see them getting in and even if they do it would be a quick trip due to lack of depth, but it would only be because of Miller that they even make it.



Though I question the musical choice for that video, Miller is another young guy who will be in the league for many years to come. I'm sure he'll get his name on the Stanley Cup at least once before he hangs the skates up. He's already shown that he's got the goods to be one of the best for many years. He just needs some bodies in front of him to help him out a little.

#2 Martin Brodeur - New Jersey Devils

I know what you're saying. "Oh please, you just hate the Devils and hate Brodeur so of course you can't admit he's the best goalie in the league and probably the best goalie of all-time."

While you're right about my dislike of the Devils, you cannot convince me that he is the best goalie of all-time. Will he have most of the records by the time he retires? Probably, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the Devils play a system in which an average goalie could be a star and a stud like Brodeur rises to levels unseen before.

Never once have I said that I don't think he is a great goalie. He is. However, I question how he would have been on a team such as the Penguins when they were one of the worst teams in the league and acquiring the guys you now see playing for them in the draft.

I credit most of Brodeurs wins to the system and the Devils management who has been able to find guys to play into the defense first system year after year. As frustrating as it is for me to see them be successful every year, they have some brilliant minds running the organization.

Now back to the greatest goalie of all-time point. I would rank guys like Roy, Jacques Plante and Bernie Parent over Brodeur. Yeah, going old school on this. If you haven't seen or heard of these guys, Wikipedia is a wonderful way to get caught up.



Had to take that video due to Metallica being the musical choice. Again, Brodeur is a great goalie and is one of the best of all-time, but to me he's not the best regardless of what the stats show. Numbers don't always show the full picture.

Which brings me to my number one goalie in the Eastern Conference.

#1 Henrik Lundqvist - New York Rangers

This should make Gopher proud. For as much as I rip on him during the season, I really respect King Henrik. If I wasn't such a die-hard Penguins fan, I'd probably end up rooting for either the Leafs or the Rangers just because half the Rangers team are former Penguins anyway.

The day the Rangers let Henrik go, is the day they drop to the bottom of the standings. He's that good. Again, he's a young guy with quick pads like Fleury but I think what distinguishes him is his ability to read plays.

Fleury has gotten a lot better at reading plays and controlling his rebounds, but I think I've only seen Lundqvist leave a few bad rebounds in his career. It's uncanny how well he sees and eats the puck.

He's also proven that he can put a team on his back and carry them deep in the playoffs. Look at last season, the Rangers struggled mightily to score in the playoffs, but Henrik kept the puck out of his own net and gave the Rangers a chance to win every night.



That's just a sample of what this kid is capable of and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he starts putting up Brodeur-like numbers in the near future. The only difference there is that Lundqvist will face more than 20-25 shots a game due to a weak defensive unit in front of him. If it weren't for their forwards backchecking and having the sense to get back all the time, this season could have gotten ugly for New York.

Well there you have it, the top five goalies in the Eastern Conference. Check back tomorrow as I look at the Western Conference.

1 comment:

The Hockey God said...

Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun > MA Fleury