Goalie Rankings: Atlantic Division
The NHL’s new Atlantic division has an excellent cast of goalies, and most of these teams are going to be fun to watch this coming season. Their goalies are a huge reason for this, most of them for their innate skill, with a honorable mentions to some of their short tempers (Rask, Howard) and Twitter humor (Luongo). But how do they rank in terms of how they’re going to do next season? Read on to see a set of predictions for the Atlantic Division’s goaltenders for the 2014-15 season.
1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
After coming off a Vezina-winning season, it’s hard to put anyone above Tuukka Rask on this list. Rask posted a 2.04 GAA, a league-leading .930 save percentage, and also led the league in shutouts with seven. Rask won 36 of his 58 games played, and had little room for error due to an aggressive forechecking system in Boston that sometimes leaves their goaltender out to dry. Some choose to fault Rask for the Bruins’ early exit from the 2014 postseason, but although his rebound control could have been better, Boston’s forwards were missing an absurd amount of scoring chances. After signing a monster contract for 8 years and 53 million, Rask delivered, and I expect him to again this coming season.
2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Few teams have the luxury of having a truly elite goaltender on their roster. Fortunately for Les Habitants, Carey Price is one of them (and thank goodness, because he proved Pierre McGuire wrong after an interesting tirade at the 2005 entry draft). Price recorded an NHL career-low GAA this past year with 2.32, had an impressive save percentage of .927 and came right behind Tuukka Rask with 6 shutouts. Price was also performing very well in the 2014 playoffs before being injured in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I expect Price to keep improving this coming season as one of the league’s best goalies.
3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Combine Bishop finishing second in Vezina trophy voting, and my hatred of the Habs, and you’ve got me putting Bishop in second place. It was hard not to, given the breakout season he had, but I expect a little more in the way of consistency from Carey Price this season. At 6’7”, Bishop is the NHL’s tallest ever goalie, and this year he learned to use his size to his advantage and showcased some great athleticism. In 63 games played, he posted a GAA of 2.23, a save percentage of .924, and recorded 5 shutouts. I do expect with an improved Tampa team in front of him, that Bishop will be very good but considering the other consistently elite goalies in his division, I think 3rd place is fair.
4. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
With all the drama from Vancouver finally in his past, Roberto Luongo is ready to bounce back as an above average goaltender. He still has a very quick glove side and years of experience under his belt. With a Florida team that traded for Luongo at the deadline and spent a handful of money in free agency, Luongo will be instrumental in their hopes to be taken seriously after a long drought.
5. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs
If it weren’t for the Maple Leafs’ end of season collapse, Jonathan Bernier would be looked at in a different light. Statistically, however, he had a very good season. In 55 games, his save percentage was one of the highest among starting goalies at .923. His GAA left something to be desired at 2.69, but a goaltender most hockey fans consider elite in Ryan Miller’s was worse, given his defensive core wasn’t great. Bernier will continue to be an above-average goalie in the league and the Atlantic Division. He will win a handful of games as a starter, and hopefully his team will keep their fire going before the end of the season and make a playoff push.
6. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
It still feels weird talking about the Red Wings as a part of the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Howard himself said that he had an “okay” season. Statistically, the Red Wings’ American goaltender had his worst season since his second season as a starter with a save percentage of .910 and a GAA of 2.66. Considering the two seasons before, he had back to back GAA’s of 2.13, Howard needs to start the season strong for Detroit to continue to have faith in him. Howard will likely bounce back but as of now, he sits in 6th place given his off-year.
7. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
Before Craig Anderson being collided into by Rangers forward Chris Kreider during the 2012-13 shortened season, Anderson looked great. In 24 games, he recorded a GAA of 1.69 and a save percentage of .941. Not bad at all. This past year, his GAA inflated to 3.00 and his save percentage deflated to .911. Maybe there’s a secret: if Chris Kreider collides into you, your next year won’t be so great. Watch out, Carey Price.
8: ?????????????, Buffalo Sabres
Seriously, who is the Sabres’ starting goaltender going to be for the coming season? Enroth looked decent with a .911 save percentage and a 2.82 GAA, but are those the numbers you want from someone who played 28 games? Michal Neuvirth only played 2 games last year and Matt Hackett played 8. Maybe we’re all in for a surprise, but the Buffalo Sabres seem like they have a few more years to go before they’re a solid club, and goaltending would be a good start.