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?

Penguins shouldn’t rush to replace Bonino

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Nick Bonino was an important player for Pittsburgh the past two years. So when he signed with Nashville on July 1, it was natural for Penguins fans to want an immediate replacement.

But for GM Jim Rutherford, finding a new third-line center may take some time. The Penguins might even start the season without knowing who it will be.

What Rutherford wants to avoid is panicking and being forced into a mistake. All the other general managers are well-aware of what he needs. He’s probably been thrown a few anvils already.

“There’s a couple of guys I could acquire right now,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette on Wednesday. “I feel like there’s another group of guys that could possibly be available here soon. Kind of just waiting to see if that happens. Something could happen in the very near future or this could drag on for a little while.”

If nothing is done by the start of the season, the Penguins could give someone like Jake Guentzel a chance to take over Bonino’s role. Or, if they’d prefer to keep Guentzel in the top six, maybe a youngster like Daniel Sprong or Zach Aston-Reese would be game to try, at least on a temporary basis.

It should be noted that Rutherford has proven a savvy mid-season trader. In 2015-16, he brought in Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley, a couple of veterans who played big roles on the way to a Stanley Cup title. And then, last season, he acquired Ron Hainsey, who likewise played a key part in a championship.

Perhaps owing to that experience, Rutherford says he’s more comfortable waiting to unearth a solution than “trading for somebody where I’m not sure whether they can help us or not.”

In fairness, it’s not easy to just replace a productive third-line center whose salary was a bargain. The Penguins had Bonino for a cap hit of just $1.9 million, and he turned his time in Pittsburgh into a four-year, $16.4 million deal with the Predators.

One potential target that’s come up in speculation is the Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bozak, who just so happens to be Phil Kessel‘s good friend and former center.

Bozak, 31, has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, a status that naturally lends itself to trade speculation.

But with a $4.1 million cap hit, making room for Bozak could be a challenge for the Penguins. And on top of that, the Leafs are bound to ask a fair bit for a guy who had 55 points (18G, 37A) last season.

That’s why it’s so hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in today’s NHL. The Penguins were lucky to bring back mostly the same roster last season.

Things will be different in 2017-18.

Related: Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

“The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

“I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer

Under Pressure: Derrick Pouliot (again)

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For the second straight year, Derrick Pouliot is our pick for the Pittsburgh player under the most pressure heading into the season.

Perhaps we should just focus on someone else, but the Penguins gave the 23-year-old defenseman a one-year contract extension in July. The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Pouliot knows time is running short to prove Pittsburgh didn’t make a big mistake.

It should be compelling to watch how he fares.

“I’ve got to make an impact right away and show that I belong in the NHL,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “It’s been three years now. I haven’t fully established myself yet. I want to take it one step at a time and build as the year goes on.”

Pouliot felt he had a strong finish to his AHL season, and perhaps that will help his confidence heading into camp.

But it’s worth noting that he’s no longer exempt from waivers. So unless he earns a spot, that could mean a change of scenery, with the Penguins either losing him for nothing or trading him for pennies on the dollar.

Pouliot could feasibly crack the opening roster as Pittsburgh’s eighth defenseman, behind Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel and new addition Matt Hunwick.

He could then languish on that roster until an injury gives him a chance to play.

The first step, though, is coming into camp and building off the back half of last season.

“For me to establish myself as an NHL defenseman, a regular guy in the lineup, it’s kind of playing how I ended the season: solid defensively, consistent in that regard,” Pouliot said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s been one thing that’s always been brought up about me, inconsistency. So I think it’s starting with that and building each game.”

Looking to make the leap: Zach Aston-Reese

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

With a number of departures from a roster that won back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s imperative that the Pittsburgh Penguins get a push from some of their prospects in 2017-18.

One of the top candidates to earn a regular spot is forward Zach Aston-Reese, a 23-year-old who just wrapped up an impressive career at Northeastern University.

Aston-Reese signed with the Pens in March, hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow undrafted NCAA products Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary.

In a twist, Kunitz is one of those departed players that Aston-Reese may help replace.

“He was a college free agent, too, and kind of a goal scorer his last couple years in college,” Aston-Reese said of Kunitz, per NHL.com. “Just made a career for himself playing with good guys and being able to put the puck in the back of the net.”

Aston-Reese scored 31 goals in 38 games for the Huskies last season, making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

But despite all the accolades, he knows he’s still just a prospect, with a lot left to learn, and a lot left to prove.

“Whether we start up top or down in Wilkes-Barre, I think it’s important to be in the same mindset that, you’re trying to get better every day you show up to the rink,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “If we do get that opportunity, we need to have a good mindset, produce and do what they ask of us.”