Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Top-ten goalies

Adrian Dater over at Versus has been making lists of his top-ten players at each position. He has a job as a hockey writer, so he must be good. However, I think he has been guilty of trying too hard to either make the list correct (i.e overthinking) or make it interesting and “out of the box.” I'm no professional hockey writer, and I only got into the sport a few years ago, so I may be wrong as well, but I may be a little more familiar with work done by advanced independent hockey statisticians as well as a diverse group of hockey fans, and so here I've outlined my top-ten using what I've seen and remembered.

1. Tomas Vokoun—for years he's had the highest even-strength save percentage in the league, and since the lockout he blows all other goalies out of the water, save Tuukka Rask (who has played far fewer games). He doesn't have the win totals since he has been on Nashville—good, but not an elite team—and Florida—not very good at all. Plus, Florida is in Corsi poverty, allowing lots of shots year after year, driving up Vokoun's GAA. His raw numbers all always good, but not elite, but a slightly deeper look reveals that he's the best goalie in the NHL.

2. Roberto Luongo—hey, this is supposed to be an objective list, and on any such list Luongo has to come in high. His regular season numbers are always excellent—even earlier in Florida—and his playoff numbers a statistician would tell you come in small sample size when his team wasn't playing so well in front of him either (although I think it goes beyond that). Anyways, he's big, technically sound, smart, durable (with stamina to play lots of games), and consistent. He's one of the few goalies for whom it's worth signing for lots of money (as opposed to picking up cheap goalies and hoping one of them gets on a hot streak).

3. Henrik Lundqvist—He's the only goalie in NHL history to record four straight 30-win seasons to begin his career, let alone five like he has now (and expect that streak to continue). He's a lot like Luongo—big, mobile, technically sound, durable (with stamina), and so on. Only thing with Lundqvist is that—and Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic had a great graphic of this in the Rangers-Capitals 2009 ECQF series—as he gets more long-term fatigued, his glove in his “ready” position drops rather low and creates a high-glove vulnerability. Nevertheless, he's a terrific player.

4. Jonas Hiller--he puts up great even strength numbers, and has been for some time. Playing in Anaheim, though, he doesn't get as much credit as he deserves, like Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, and others. In short, though, the form Hiller showed in the 2009 playoffs was not a fluke. He's that good.

5. Martin Brodeur--he's still good, underwhelming playoffs notwithstanding.

6. Tuukka Rask--his numbers this past season rivaled Vokoun's at even strength and Miller's overall. That Raycroft trade sure looks good now, doesn't it?

7. Ryan Miller--he's had one great season, but his performance was in large part buoyed by pretty much unsustainable performances on special teams. He's still solid and above average, but not like the guys above him are looking.

8. Ilya Bryzgalov--Phoenix had a good defense overall and Byrzgalov too had great special teams and shootout numbers. I'm not so sold on him, but the numbers speak for themselves. Phoenix had over 100 points with a bottom-5 offense in large part to defense and goaltending, and on paper at least the defense is good not great. So the credit falls to Bryzgalov.

9. Miikka Kiprusoff--although some of his totals like wins and goals against average have been dipping, he still does all he can to help his team win. The reason he comes in so low is because of his age. While Vokoun, another old goalie, hasn't shown regression, Kiprusoff has.

10. Craig Anderson--he challenged Vokoun for the starting job in Florida in 2008-2009, while Vokoun was putting up top-5 numbers. Then, he took his act to Colorado and excelled. Sure, he got lucky some--Colorado was heavily outshot all season and really was a product of a high shooting percentage from their young players--but Anderson was solid too.

Just missed out: Tim Thomas, Dan Ellis, Pekka Rinne, Jonas Gustavsson, Evgeni Nabokov

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