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?

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

avalanche injuries
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.