Who are the best 14 players in the NHL at each position as teams prepare for the start of the 2014-15 season? Arpon Basu, Brian Compton, Corey Masisak and Dan Rosen have cast their votes and the result is NHL.com's "Top 14 for '14-15" project. Each first-place vote is worth 14 points, each second-place vote is worth 13, continuing in descending order to each 14th-place vote being worth one. There are two tiebreakers. First, which player appeared on more ballots? Second, which player had the highest individual ranking? If the voting was exactly the same for each player, it was declared a tie. Does NHL.com's list match your rankings for the best players in the League entering the 2014-15 campaign?
The balance of power in the NHL clearly resides in the Western Conference, but the balance of the League's goaltending power is situated in the other conference.
The top three and five of the top six on NHL.com's list of the League's 14 best goaltenders play in the Eastern Conference.
The defending champion Los Angeles Kings find their goalie, Jonathan Quick, fourth on the list, but otherwise the top six is comprised of Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.
The trend hardly is new.
Just two Western Conference goalies, Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames in 2005-06 and Bobrovsky in 2012-13, before the Blue Jackets switched to the Eastern Conference, have won the Vezina Trophy since 1992-93, when Ed Belfour won it with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Goaltending widely is considered to be the most important position in hockey, but the distribution of the elite at the position suggests it might not be quite as vital as generally believed, at least in the regular season.
Rask is the only goalie in the top six on this list that had his team finish in the top eight in the regular-season standings in 2013-14.
When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, it's a different story. Of the four goalies who reached the Eastern and Western Conference finals, three are in the top four of this list.
Here is NHL.com's list of the top 14 goaltenders in the NHL:
1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, 53 points (2 first-place votes)
2013-14: 33-24-5, 2.36 GAA, .920 save percentage
Lundqvist is one of the most consistent goaltenders in the world. In nine seasons with the Rangers, Lundqvist never has posted a save percentage below .912 and he has started at least 75 percent of his team's games every season since his second in the League. Lundqvist has one Vezina Trophy to his credit; however, it is his durability and unmatched ability to avoid an off year that makes him so valuable. His career save percentage of .920 is second all-time among goalies with at least 250 games.
2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 51 points (1)
2013-14: 36-15-6, 2.04 GAA, .930 save percentage
Assuming he plays in at least 54 games and maintains his excellent form, Rask will pass Lundqvist and Dominik Hasek to take over the top spot on the career save percentage list this season. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has led the NHL in shutouts the past two seasons, and his .941 even-strength save percentage last season was the League's best.
3. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens, 49 points
2013-14: 34-20-5, 2.32 GAA, .927 save percentage
Price is coming off his best season, having established career marks in goals-against average and save percentage. He also put up a performance for the ages at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, allowing three goals on 106 shots in five games to lead Canada to the gold medal, and backstopped the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final. Price turned 27 on Aug. 16, and every indication would suggest he is entering the prime of his career.
4. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, 41 points (1)
2013-14: 2013-14: 27-17-4, 2.07 GAA, .915 save percentage
Quick's regular-season numbers were not among the League's elite, and a groin injury that cost him 24 games did not help in that regard. But Quick is one of the most athletic goaltenders in the NHL, and he's a money goalie with two Stanley Cup victories in the past three years. One statistic earns Quick a prominent place on this list is his play in overtime last season; in 14 overtime periods during the regular season he did not allow a goal on 24 shots.
5. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets, 33 points
2013-14: 32-20-5, 2.38 GAA, .923 save percentage
A poster child for the notion that a change of scenery is sometimes required for a career to take off, Bobrovsky has become one of the NHL's top goaltenders since the Philadelphia Flyers traded him to Columbus for three draft picks two years ago. Only Rask has a better save percentage than Bobrovsky among goaltenders with at least 50 games played over the past two seasons.
6. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils, 31 points
2013-14: 16-15-12, 1.97 GAA, .921 save percentage
Schneider played a career-high 45 games last season, his first with the Devils, and he can expect to play a lot more this season with the departure of Martin Brodeur. For the first time in his NHL career Schneider is an undisputed No. 1 goalie, and his numbers suggest he's more than ready for it. One area where Schneider was most impressive last season was on special teams, with a .919 save percentage on the penalty kill and stopping all 33 shots he faced while the Devils were on the power play, the highest number of shots without allowing a goal in the NHL.
7. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche, 30 points
2013-14: 41-14-6, 2.41 GAA, .927 save percentage
Varlamov led the NHL with a career-best 41 wins and also established new personal highs in games played (63) and save percentage. Many wondered how the Colorado Avalanche were able to put together such a successful regular season while being severely outshot on a regular basis. The reason, in large part, was Varlamov, which is why he finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting and second in Vezina Trophy voting.
8. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning, 21 points
2013-14: 37-14-7, 2.23 GAA, .924 save percentage
In his first season as a starting goalie, Bishop provided the Lightning with the best goaltending the franchise has had since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004 with Nikolai Khabibulin in net. Bishop placed in the top 10 in the NHL in wins (fourth), save percentage (seventh), goals-against average (seventh) and shutouts (fourth).
9. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, 19 points
2013-14: 10-10-3, 2.77 GAA, .902 save percentage
Rinne's season was derailed by an infection to his surgically repaired left hip, and the Predators are counting on him to bounce back and reclaim his place among the NHL's best goaltenders. His size and athleticism makes Rinne an imposing figure in the Predators net, but it remains to be seen if he can be the same kind of workhorse who played 73 games in 2011-12.
10. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs, 16 points
2013-14: 26-19-7, 2.68 GAA, .923 save percentage
Bernier played in as many games last season (55) as he had in his three previous seasons combined with the Los Angeles Kings, emerging from Quick's imposing shadow to take the No. 1 job from James Reimer in Toronto. His brilliant play during the first half of the season allowed the Maple Leafs to remain in playoff contention far longer than they probably should have, winning games behind a defense that allowed the most shots on goal per game in the NHL.
11. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers, 14 points
2013-14: 25-23-7, 2.40 GAA, .919 save percentage
It is rare to see a goaltender that has accomplished as much as Luongo has while facing such a constant barrage of criticism. The trade that put an end to his soap opera existence with the Vancouver Canucks appeared to give Luongo new life, and he had a .924 save percentage in 14 games with the Panthers to finish the season after winning his second Olympic gold medal as Price's backup in Sochi.
12. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks, 13 points
2013-14: 32-16-10, 2.26 GAA, .917 save percentage
Crawford plays behind one of the best teams in the NHL, which helps explain what might be his most impressive statistic. In his four seasons as starting goaltender of the Blackhawks, Crawford has won 114 of the 203 games in which he's appeared. His GAA and save percentage likely never will lead the NHL, but Crawford consistently does enough for his team to win. What more can you ask of your goalie?
13. Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks, 12 points
2013-14: 25-30-4, 2.64 GAA, .918 save percentage
Miller was in the midst of the finest season of his career, putting up a .923 save percentage playing behind the NHL's worst team, when disaster struck: He was traded to a contender. Miller's time with the St. Louis Blues took some shine off what looked to be a renaissance season, but the Canucks are hoping they signed the goalie that performed miracles playing behind the porous Buffalo Sabres and not the one that looked mediocre behind one of the best defensive teams in the League.
14. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars, 12 points
2013-14: 33-20-10, 2.41 GAA, .919 save percentage
For a goaltender that has battled injuries throughout his career, leading the League in games and minutes means something. That's what Lehtonen did last season, and if he can do it again, or at least come close, the revamped Stars could make some noise in the Western Conference.
Others receiving votes: Others receiving votes: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (6 points); Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks (5 points); Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings (4 points); Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (3 points); John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (1 point)
|TOP 14 GOALTENDERS (VOTING BREAKDOWN)