Playoff goalie confidence rankings: Lightning, Maple Leafs at opposite ends

NHL goalie ranking
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There is no more impactful position in the postseason — or at any point of the NHL season — than goalie.

It will make or break your team, it can swing a series, and if you get great play at the position you are going to have a chance to win it all. If you get bad play at the position, your postseason trip will probably be disappointing no matter how good the rest of your team is.

With the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs just around the corner we wanted to take a look at each potential playoff team (teams that still have a strong chance to make it; so Winnipeg and Vancouver? Not included) and how they should feel about their goaltending situation as the playoffs approach.

So confident they should be arrogant about it

Tampa Bay Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s overall numbers this season are not quite on the same level as they have been in the past, but he is still the best goalie in the world and a proven superstar. Especially come playoff time. He has played every minute of their past two championship runs with a .932 save percentages in those 48 games. The Lightning always have a chance with him, and at any moment he can become a dominant game changer that just takes over a series. They are in a class all their own here at this position because of Vasilevskiy.

Extremely high confidence and no real concern

New York Rangers. Igor Shesterkin does not have quite the lengthy resume that Vasilevskiy has, and his play has dipped a bit over the past two weeks, so that puts the Rangers at the very top of this tier instead of the absolute top tier. This is the most hockey Shesterkin has played in a season and there might be some concern that he could run out of steam in the middle of a playoff run. But he has been the Rangers’ most important player this season and is not only a Vezina Trophy front runner, he is also a legitimate MVP contender.

Carolina Hurricanes. Frederik Andersen has been everything the Hurricanes could have hoped for him to be this season and more. What makes their situation especially strong is they have a very, very good backup in Antti Raanta. Neither player is a superstar, but they are both excellent.

Nashville Predators. Saros has been one of the NHL’s best performing goalies for three years now and is an excellent last line of defense behind a surprisingly good Western Conference playoff team. He almost single handedly dragged the Predators to a playoff spot a year ago and has been just as good this season (with a little better support around him).

Calgary Flames. The Flames paid a huge price to get Jacob Markstrom in free agency a year ago and he is rewarding them for their investment. Markstrom has a .924 save percentage this season and a league-best nine shutouts. Calgary plays a great defensive game under coach Darryl Sutter, has balanced out its forward lineup, and has a top-tier goalie this year.

Very confident

Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche have arguably the NHL’s best defense (almost all of them impact players) and a loaded lineup that can dominate any opponent on any given night. They do not necessarily need a goalie that can steal them a lot of games. They need a goalie that will not lose them games. That is Darcy Kuemper, and just as an added bonus for them he is also capable of stealing a game when needed. Pavel Francouz is a strong backup as well.

Minnesota Wild. Cam Talbot is a perfectly acceptable NHL starting goalie, but Marc-Andre Fleury is the wild card here. He struggled in Chicago, but what goalie would not struggle behind that mess? He is still capable of being an impact player and is off to a very strong start with the Wild. Between the two of them they should be plenty good enough at this position to make some noise in the playoffs. The playoff meltdowns of years past are in his rear view mirror as he has a .922 save percentage in his past 62 playoff games dating back to the 2016-17 playoffs.

[NHL Power Rankings: Bruins, Wild peaking at right time]

Their goalie has something to prove

Pittsburgh Penguins. Tristan Jarry had a nightmare postseason a year ago, a performance that played a significant role in the Penguins’ first round exit at the hands of the New York Islanders. He has bounced back in a big way this season and has been one of the better goalies in the league. But until he does it in the playoffs there is going to be that question mark looming over him. Very good season, but still mostly unproven.

St. Louis Blues. The Blues are probably having some second thoughts about that Jordan Binnington contract extension. After back-to-back playoff meltdowns Binnington has come back this season and had his worst season as a pro, currently owning a .899 save percentage on the season. The good news for the Blues is Ville Husso has stepped in to save the day. He has had a great year but he has very little NHL track record to base any projection on.

Boston Bruins. With Tuukka Rask retired Bruins fans are going to have to find a new scapegoat this season. His absence has been filled by the duo of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. They have been …. fine? Not liabilities. Not game-changers. Just …. fine. Swayman has been the better of the two overall this season but he has struggled since the beginning of March. The Bruins are a great defensive team with some impact players at forward so there is a lot of potential here. They just need the goaltending to be good.

Dallas Stars. The Stars opened the season with four NHL caliber goalies on their roster, and it has been a journey just keeping one of them healthy and in the lineup. Jake Oettinger has emerged as the starter, but he falls under the same category as Jarry, Husso, and Swayman. Fine performance, but not enough of a track record to really be 100% confident with what he is going to do in the playoffs. Assuming the Stars get there.

nhl goalie ranking
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This is a cause for concern

Florida Panthers. Okay now things start to get really interesting. The Panthers have the best offense in the NHL by a mile. When Aaron Ekblad is healthy they have a very formidable defense. This has been the best full season in Panthers franchise history and there is every reason for fans to believe they have a team that can win it all. The only thing that can disrupt that is goaltending. And guess what just so happens to be a cause for alarm as the playoffs approach: goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky had a wonderful start to the season, but he has fallen off significantly in the second half and some of his previous playoff performances leave something to be desired. Spencer Knight is the future of the position in Florida, but he has not had the rookie season the Panthers may have hoped for. Since the start of February their team all situations save percentage of .894 is one of the worst in the NHL. This is a potential problem.

Los Angeles Kings. Jonathan Quick is a two-time Cup winner and has some of the NHL’s best single season playoff runs on his resume. But he has not been that goalie for a few years now. As a duo, he and Calvin Petersen have been pretty average this season, and that has been good enough for a quickly improving Kings team that has exceeded expectations.

Vegas Golden Knights. The concern here is that Robin Lehner has not consistently been healthy this season, and when he has been on the ice his play has regressed from the past few years. If he is healthy and playing like we have seen in the past, they should be fine. But they have no Plan B like they did in recent years.

No confidence at all. This is a problem position.

Toronto Maple Leafs. The offense is great. Defensively they are probably better than their critics want to admit. But that goaltending is a real problem and the obvious weakness here. Jack Campbell has been awful since the start of December, as his .890 save percentage since Dec. 1 is 34th out of the 37 goalies that have appeared in at least 20 games since then (ahead of only Ilya Samsonov and Philip Grubauer). Petr Mrazek has struggled pretty consistently all season. This is going to be a problem.

Washington Capitals. The Capitals have two options in Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, neither of which has done anything to secure the starting job. Washington was unable to add a goalie upgrade before the trade deadline and seemed to be happy with Vanecek’s play. But that has tailed off in recent weeks and now the Capitals are set to enter the playoffs with no good (or proven) option.

[Related: Capitals goaltending situation could be big problem]

Edmonton Oilers. They stuck with the same goalie duo that was not good enough a year ago. They have the worst team save percentage of any playoff team, and teams with this level of goaltending typically do not win. The best option here might actually be Stuart Skinner, and not Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen.

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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.