Scoring is up across the NHL, which means the elite goalies are truly separating themselves from the pack in the 2018-19 season. Here is our look at the top-five netminders in today’s game.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby’s stat line keeps inflating, but when you lead a franchise to its first Stanley Cup win, you tend to get the benefit of the doubt. And that’s exactly why Holtby earns a nod as one of the top five goalies in the league, after he served as the backbone of Washington’s improbable run. When the Caps needed him most, he elevated his play, recording an impressive .922 save percentage against the high-flying Golden Knights in the Final. Holtby gave up exactly two goals per game against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, including unforgettable shutouts in games six and seven. Holtby’s ranking among the game’s best comes with the assumption that the 29-year-old will regain the form that made him a perennial Vezina contender.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
The two-time Vezina winner has been viewed as one of the league’s best ever since taking over between the Columbus pipes in the 2012-13 season. His best campaign came two years ago when the Russian posted a 2.06 GAA and .931 save percentage, making him an easy choice for the Vezina. But much like Holtby, Bobrovsky’s play has fallen off a bit this season. In fact, Bobrovsky and Holtby are tied with an identical 2.86 GAA as of Thursday, December 20. But if there’s anything NHL fans should know about Bobrovsky, it is to reserve judgement following any sort of slump. The Blue Jackets sits just four points back of the Capitals for the division lead, so look for both Holtby and Bobrovsky to elevate their play in the back half of the season.
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
Who could’ve imagined Marc-Andre Fleury would find himself back among the best goaltenders in the league in 2018-19? Just one year ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins deemed Fleury and his contract expendable, choosing to stick with the younger and cheaper Matt Murray in net. At 33 years old, Fleury became the catalyst behind the Vegas Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. He put together his best professional season last year, posting career highs of a 2.24 GAA and .927 save percentage. It was truly a shame Fleury didn’t get a Vezina nomination, finishing fifth in final voting. Fleury has helped propel Vegas back into playoff contention in the Western Conference after a sluggish start this year. It’s tough to remember a more impressive career rebirth than the one Fleury is currently experiencing.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
When thinking of the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s the abundance of offensive talent that immediately comes to mind. Whether it’s Steven Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov, it’s easy to forget that Tampa has one of the best goaltenders in the league as well. The legend of Vas began a few years ago when Steve Yzerman traded away Ben Bishop, a terrific young goalie entering his prime. Yzerman hitched the team’s wagon to an unproven backup. He better be great, Lightning fans thought at the time. Last season, Vasilevskiy recorded 44 wins in 64 starts, and this year he leads the NHL in save percentage. His save percentage has increased every year since his elevated role in 2015. This season, Vasilevskiy has a good chance to capture a Vezina and a Stanley Cup, all before he hits his 25th birthday.
1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne has picked up right where he left off last season. The sensational Predators goalie leads the NHL with a 2.07 GAA. His .927 save percentage is tied for fourth, but three goalies ahead of Rinne, Vasilevskiy, Jaroslav Halak and Mikko Koskinen, have played in significantly less games. Rinne’s Vezina win last season was extremely overdue. The goaltender was nominated in 2011, 2012 and 2015, before finally claiming the hardware. Rinne was a runaway winner last season, taking 83 percent of the vote. He took 22 of a possible 31 first-place votes as well. At 36, Rinne shows no signs of slowing down, but the urgency for Nashville to win a Cup is definitely apparent. After holding the Vezina last year, this could be the season Rinne finally hoists the Stanley Cup instead.