2010 NHL playoffs: Ranking the goaltenders

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As we head into the 2010 NHL Playoffs, every series we break down
always comes back to one thing: goaltending. Even the most offensively
gifted team in the playoffs needs exceptional goaltending to get through
four rounds of hockey; just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins how important
Marc-Andre Fleury was to them last season.

It’s no fluke that the
top nine goaltenders in the NHL are all in the playoffs.

With that in mind, here are our rankings of the starting goaltenders
for each team headed into the playoffs. Well, projected starters at
least. Joel Quenneville may pull a fast one on us.

Note: Rankings based on overall experience, past playoff
performance and this season’s performance.

#1 – Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

2009-10
season: 41-18-8, 5 SO, 2.22 GAA, .929 SV%

Playoff
Experience: 20-14-0, 1 SO, 2.22 GAA, .922 SV%

The NHL’s best
goaltender heading into the playoffs, and has proven already he is
capable of carrying a team on his shoulders when it counts the most.

#2 – Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes

2009-10
season: 42-20-6, 8 SO, 2.29 GAA, .920 SV%

Playoff
Experience: 9-5-0, 3 SO, 2.25 GAA, 9.22 SV%

Has been a rock
for the Coyotes for three seasons, and now gets the chance to leading
them into the playoffs. Will get major consideration for the Vezina,
after a tremendous season between the pipes.

#3 – Martin
Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

2009-10 season: 45-25-6, 9
SO, 2.24 GAA, .916 SV%

Playoff Experience: 98-78-0, 23 SO,
1.98 GAA, .920 SV%

Arguably the best goaltender in the history
of the NHL is back in the playoffs, and it’s surprising to not think
he’d be at the top of this list. Despite the Devils winning the Jennings
trophy, it feels as if this may be the season the great one starts to
falter.

#4 – Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

2009-10
season: 40-22-4, 4 SO, 2.57 GAA, .913 SV%

Playoff
Experience: 11-11-0, 1 SO, 2.09 GAA, .930 SV%

Had a bit of an
inconsistent season this year and — for him — some disappointing
numbers. He’s still one of the best goaltenders in the NHL when he’s on
top of his game; can he carry that over to the playoffs?

#5 – Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks

2009-10
season: 44-16-10, 3 SO 2.43 GAA, .922 SV%

Playoff
Experience: 32-31-0, 6 SO, 2.23 GAA, .915 SV%

Nabokov had one
hell of a season with the Sharks, but until he and the team prove they
carry over the success to the playoffs he won’t be any higher on this
list. Fair? Probably not.

#6 – Craig Anderson, Colorado
Avalanche

2009-10 season: 38-25-7, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV%

Playoff
Experience: None

Could this be a bit high for Anderson? Sure.
But he’s the reason the Avalanche are even in the playoffs this season,
and he’ll be the reason why the succeed — or fail.

#7 –
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

2009-10 season:
37-21-6,
1 SO, 2.65 GAA, .905 SV%

Playoff Experience: 31-18-0, 3 SO, 2.45
GAA, .908 SV%

The defending Stanley Cup winning goaltender should
be a bit higher, most likely, except Fleury hasn’t exactly wowed me this
season. Ha and the Penguins have been inconsistent late in the season,
and have to show me they can flip the ‘on switch’.

#8 – Jose
Theodore, Washington Capitals

2009-10 season: 30-7-7, 1
SO, 2.81 GAA, .911 SV%

Playoff Experience: 19-27-0, 1 SO,
2.79 GAA, .912 SV%

He’s had a great season so far, but has
struggled mightily in the playoffs. It’s expected he’ll get the nod this
year for the postseason, but I’m guessing he has a very short leash.
Caps fans will riot if this team loses to the Canadiens.

#9 through #16 after the jump.

#9 – Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

2009-10 season: 37-15-10.3 SO, 2.26 GAA, .924 SV%

Playoff
Experience: None

It’s amazing to think that he is this high,
after just one season and no experience. But he’s calm, collected and
cold as ice between the pipes.

#10 – Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

2009-10
season: 32-16-5. 7 SO, 2.53 GAA, .911 SV%

Playoff
Experience: None

Rinne has had a solid season with the
Predators, but needs to prove himself in the playoffs. He’s been too
consistent the past two season to just write him off, and it’s exciting
to get to see what he can do in the postseason.

#11 – Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

2009-10
season: 22-12-5, 5 SO, 1.97 GAA, .931 SV%

Playoff
Experience: None

A very small sample size, but some incredible
numbers and success this season. Can he carry an undermanned Boston
team past the first round, though?

#12 – Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens

2009-10 season:
26-13-5, 5 SO, 2.40 GAA, .924 SV%

Playoff Experience: 0-1-0, 0 SO,
1.85 GAA, .906 SV%

A lack of experience keeps him low on the
list, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have the chance to do something
special in the postseason. He’ll have to be otherworldly, however,
against the Capitals

#13 – Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

2009-10
season: 39-34-7, 4 SO, 2.54 GAA, .907 SV%

Playoff
Experience: None

I’m worried that Quick won’t have the energy
left to continue to carry the Kings after the season, as he’s was relied
heavily upon during the season just to get to the playoffs.

#14
– Anti Niemi, Chicago Blackhawks

2009-10 season:
26-7-4, 7 SO, 2.25 GAA, .912 SV%

Playoff Experience: None

Prove
to me you can get it done in the playoffs.

#15 – Brian
Elliott, Ottawa Senators

2009-10 season: 29-18-4, 5 SO,
2.57 GAA, .909 SV %

Playoff Experience: None

He’s
been good down the stretch, and he’ll have to be even better now that
it really counts.

#16 – Brian Boucher, Philadelphia Flyers

2009-10 season:
9-18-3, 1 SO, 2.76 GAA, .899 SV%

Playoff Experience:
11-8-0, 1 SO, 2.06 GAA, .916 SV%

He has not started a playoff
game since 2002, and has not started more than twice in a playoff series
since 2000. Can he continue to work his magic for the Flyers?

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.