The fact of the matter concerning goalies in the NHL is if you come into a season with a bad goalie it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the team is, you will still lose lots of games and be out of Stanley Cup contention. St. Louis was a great example of this starting the season with Jake Allen. They did horribly until they changed goaltending and gave it to Jordan Binnington, who helped take the Blues to a Stanley Cup victory.
Goaltending can make or break your season and playoffs. Personally I would consider goaltending to be the most critical position in the sport and should be the first item on every team’s list.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at who has the best players at this position in the 2019-2020 season.
Ben Bishop was clearly the number one goaltender in the 2018-19 season and deserved the Vezina Trophy. He not only had a save percentage of .934, which was the highest among starting goaltenders that year, but additionally had an incredible goal against average of 1.98. Those stats are better than most goaltenders have at any time in their entire careers. All these good performances didn’t just stay in the regular season though. Ben Bishop went into the playoffs against the Nashville Predators and in six games never let the Predators score more than three goals. This allowed his team to have a chance to win and the team beat the Predators swiftly.
Bishop was then up against the Blues. This team had goal scorers all over but that didn’t stop Bishop from playing incredibly. He even outplayed Jordan Binnington in a double OT game seven. He ended that game with a remarkable 52 saves. Even though the Stars lost the game, it was not because of a lack of effort on the part of Ben, more the fact that his offense couldn’t get anything going. All told, Ben Bishop played better than any goalie last season and is sure to play to the same standard he has set in the past, this year.
Jordan who? That’s what I would have said this time last year had you mentioned him. And now, well, he is going to be one of the greatest goalies in hockey history, if that is, he keeps playing the way he has, which I believe he will. Jordan, with the help of a new coach and as a rookie, won all 16 games needed to win the Stanley Cup. He is the only rookie goalie to accomplish this 16-game feat. While other rookie goalies have won the cup, not with all 16 wins.
His performance in the playoffs, especially in game sevens, were spectacular. He has proven he is a force to be reckoned with and not ever to be ignored. So the message sent to the rest of the league is prepared: Jordan is here to stay in St. Louis and will be a hard goaltender to get by for years to come. There is only one downside to be considered, Jordan is young and he could get injured or simply not be consistent long-term. We can think about that if and when it comes. As of now, he is number 2.
There is but one reason the generational talent Lightning goaltender is not higher on this list. He has lost my trust in the playoffs because he choked. Now don’t see this the wrong way, I am not saying he won’t perform well in the 2018-19 playoffs. I am saying I can’t trust whether he will do good or bad and when I can’t trust goalies, I usually don’t pick them for playoff wins either. Let’s take a prime example of this type of distrust in Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. Pekka has some wicked potential but when it comes playoff time he simply cannot perform.
Now that we have looked at the bad side of Vasilevskiy, let’s look at the good side. He won 39 games in the 2018-19 regular season. He had a solid save percentage and goals-against average. He thinks quick and is very athletic. He can make some pretty mind-boggling highlight saves too. Just as the others mentioned, he will be very hard to get past in the 2019-20 season. There is no question whether or not he will do good this year, he will. The only question now is can he rebound and learn from his mistakes in the playoffs last year and turn that into success in these coming playoffs.
This one is rather obvious but somewhat contested as to where on the top-5 he should be. No matter where on the top-5 you put him, one thing is for sure, he is a playmaker. This quality is one thing coaches will always love, especially when it comes to goaltenders. Yes, there is nothing like a wild goal but there is one thing that gets teams even more pumped than that, a wild save. Carey Price is full of these; he is nothing short of a highlight magnet. He brings that extra energy with the saves he makes that can help put his team over the top. He has been great for a very long time and is sure to be on this same top-5 list for years to come. There is not much to say about Carey Price because his play speaks for itself. Be sure to watch for Carey Price in 2019-20, he will be amazing.
He finally did it. Sergei Bobrovsky finally broke the curse of choking in the playoffs. This is the story of redemption that you have to love. It was the only major piece(in his realm of control) missing from Sergei’s chances at a Stanley Cup. The goaltender has won the Vezina Trophy twice in his career. The only thing left to do is win the Stanley Cup. Only one problem. He is on the Florida Panthers. Now granted, the Panthers are going to be better than they were last year but a Stanley Cup seems out of reach. I would never say any team doesn’t have a chance at all though because, as I have said and will say many times again, anything can happen in the NHL. The difference will be on the other facets of play besides goaltending as Sergei is sure to hold up his end of the deal to the Panthers. I would not be surprised to see the Panthers sneak into a playoff spot or even win a series but anything beyond that I believe the other teams in the conference would shut them down. They will likely need to build the rest of the team before Bobrovsky can have his big chance in a cup final.