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?

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.