They are the last line of defense, and in some cases, the biggest stars on the team. Chicago Blackhawks
GM Dale Tallon
thinks the importance of having great goaltending is so important that he plans to employ two No. 1s this season.
Each conference has their share of supremely talented goalies, but some consistently separate themselves from the rest. What follows is NHL.com's list of the top five goalies from the Western Conference entering this season.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks
-- When you talk about consistent goalies, Giguere belongs near the top of the list. He has won at least 30 games in each of the past three seasons while never playing in more than 60. His GAA and save percentage have also gone down every season since the lockout.
Giguere, like the rest of the Ducks, had a disappointing 2008 Playoffs, but history suggests this will be his bounce back year. In his four playoff appearances, Giguere has twice made the Stanley Cup Final and twice been ousted in the first round.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
-- Despite appearing in the playoffs only once in his career, Luongo is widely respected throughout the League as one of the premier netminders. He has the talent and the numbers to prove it.
Luongo has played in 70 or more games in each of the past four seasons. He posted a career-best 47 wins in 2006-07 when the Canucks made the playoffs. Last season he won 35 games and had a 2.38 GAA, but Vancouver fell short.
Much like Brodeur in New Jersey and Miller in Buffalo, Luongo is the star in Vancouver and he'll have to play like it for the Canucks to get back to the postseason.
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks
-- Prior to last season, Nabokov hadn't played 60 games in a season since 2001-02, when he played in 67. Last season, he played in a career-high 77 and put up remarkable numbers, including a 46-21-8 record with a 2.14 GAA, a .910 save percentage and six shutouts.
While 77 games played may seem a bit high, Nabokov proved he could handle the load. He likely will play closer to 65-70 this season with Brian Boucher
, a veteran backup, signed to start the season with the Sharks.
Nevertheless, Nabokov could be in line for another All-Star season.
Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings
-- Osgood has had a roller coaster career, but the ride got really sweet last season when he supplanted Dominik Hasek
as the No. 1 in Detroit and led the Wings to their fourth Stanley Cup championship in the last 11 years.
He may not have the cachet of some of these other guys, but Osgood is a consistent winner and that puts him on a very short list. If he stays healthy, he could possibly win his 400th career game this season. He has 363 right now.
Osgood has won 30 games only once in the last five seasons, but this is the first time since 2003-04 that he is entering the season as the No. 1. He is also on the League's best team -- at least that's what the Wings are on paper as we enter the season.
Marty Turco, Dallas Stars
-- Turco silenced some critics last season with a strong postseason. He led the Stars to the Western Conference Final, where they gave Detroit a run, and finished the playoffs with a 2.08 GAA and .922 save percentage.
He should be buoyed by the confidence gained from the playoffs, and that should again make Dallas a very dangerous team in the Pacific Division. Turco will also likely carry a heftier load this year without a proven backup.
He hasn't played in 70 games since 2003-04, but if he's healthy that's about the number the Stars are looking for from him considering Stephane Tobias, who has played in one NHL game, is currently the No. 2 in Dallas.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com