Season Preview: Ranking the Western Conference Goaltenders
On Friday, we talked Eastern Conference goaltending. Today, it’s the West.
My memory is cloudy and I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong: Ilya Bryzgalov is the best waiver claim of all time. Jason LaBarbera is a solid backup.
First, the book is out on Roberto Luongo. Stand in his kitchen, you’ll get in his head. Which is fine. Except elite goalies are able to, at the most crucial moment, shut the door on the opposition. I don’t think Roberto Luongo quite has this ability in him. He’s a modern-day Tom Barrasso – in the discussion, but rarely considered the best of his era. That being said, Tommy B did win a couple Cups.
This rating could end up looking incredibly silly. What has Jaroslav Halak truly proven, beyond one of the greatest post-season runs in goaltending history? That being said, I’m a believer. Ty Conklin is a very capable backup.
Jimmy Howard only got better as the season went along, and he was pretty good in the post-season too. Chris Osgood struggled last year, and one has to wonder if he’s got much left.
Miikka Kiprusoff is one of the league’s best, but the back-up situation has been a nightmare for a long time. If Henrik Karlsson is legit, they move up these rankings.
Jonas Hiller might be a top-5/top-10 goalie in the NHL. His backup, Curtis McElhinney, might be the league’s worst.
Pekka Rinne is a pretty good goalie whose numbers look great playing goal for the defensive-minded Predators. His backup situation remains completely unsettled and is one of the biggest battles of Nashville’s training camp.
Even at 35, Marty Turco is a better goalie than Antti Niemi. Corey Crawford is a promising backup. Cristobal Huet is in Europe, enjoying various cheeses and wines. Not a bad way to earn $5.625 million.
Craig Anderson noticeably wore down last year, and he’ll have to prove he’s not a one-year wonder. Team might also be better off with a back-up other than Peter Budaj – a player with all the tools, but not much of a toolbox.
The tale of two Jonathans – Jonathan Quick was the starter last year, but Jonathan Bernier is the top-level prospect – one of the top goalie prospects in the league. Erik Ersberg is the after thought here.
This is the year we find out if Steve Mason is another Jim Carey in net or the real deal. Sadly, if he falters, Mathieu Garon is as streaky a backup as you can get.
Antti Niemi is the goalie with the Cup on his resume. Antero Niittymaki is the likely back-up. Neither is a poster boy for consistency. Thomas Griess might be the best goalie of the three long-term, but he seems destined for the AHL. If Niemi proves legit, they rocket up these rankings. That’s not likely though.
Generally overrated between the pipes. While hurt last year, it’s not a leap to suggest that Niklas Backstrom’s quality numbers were a direct result of Jacques Lemaire coaching. Josh Harding has yet to deliver on his promising talent.
(Editor’s note: Josh Harding tore his ACL and MCL last Friday. He could miss the entire season. – J.J.)
Kari Lehtonen hasn’t exactly been the picture of health during his NHL career. The once highly-touted prospect has put up decent, but rarely spectacular, numbers at the NHL level. A blind man has a chance to score on Andrew Raycroft if he can shoot the puck high, glove side.
The Oilers goaltending picture sounds like an evening in downtown Moscow: you’ve got a Russian drunk driver (Nikolai Khabibulin) hanging with a couple of “Double-Ds” (Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk). Marty Gerber is also in the mix. It would be a surprise if any of these three were impact players this year.