- Craig Custance
Continuing with our theme this week of assessing the best teams in the NHL at every position -- we looked at forward groups on Tuesday and defenseman groups on Wednesday -- the post today is on the men in the crease.
You already know who the best goalies in the league are -- players such as Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Sergei Bobrovsky and Pekka Rinne. But it gets more interesting when it comes down to which teams have the best goalie depth. Here is my take on the top 10 goaltending tandems entering this season, as well as thoughts from an opposing goalie in each case.
General manager Lou Lamoriello's addition of Cory Schneider on draft day remains one of the more masterful moves of the summer, a trade that helps counteract the drain on talent that has hit New Jersey the past couple of offseasons with the departure of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson.
Having the duo of Schneider and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur on the roster means that the Devils will have an elite goalie in net every game. Schneider comes over with a career save percentage of .927, and Brodeur is at .913, although he has been below that for the past three seasons. Schneider's time in Vancouver proves he knows how to handle a two-goalie rotation with professionalism and class.
Opposing goalie's breakdown: "That's one of those situations where it's a perfect changing of the guard. Brodeur has been the backbone and now their transition is going to be extremely simple. Schneider in the last few years was able to learn from Roberto Luongo, now he has a chance to learn from Marty for a year. I think it's a perfect scenario. It'll be interesting to see how they manage ice time when they have two starting-caliber goalies."
Craig Anderson led the league in save percentage (.941) and goals-against average (1.69) this past season, and might have won the Vezina Trophy if he had stayed healthy for the entire season. He had a masterful season as Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner were gunning for his job. It's fair to expect that save percentage to drop closer to his career average of .915 in 2013-14, but he'll have plenty of motivation each time he steps on the ice, with a 2014 Olympic roster spot on the line along with a continued push from Lehner for playing time.
Ottawa likes Lehner so much that it felt comfortable dealing the 6-foot-7 Bishop, who had a .922 save percentage at the time of the trade to Tampa Bay. Lehner is maturing into an elite goalie, with his production matching his potential last season, including a .936 save percentage in 12 games. In two playoff games, he had a .920 save percentage and 2.45 GAA. He's athletic, 6-4, and plays with a noticeable confidence.
Opposing goalie's breakdown: "Craig is a guy who, everywhere he's been, has been a little bit of a dark horse. He's put up Vezina-caliber numbers. If it wasn't for his injury last year, he could have broke a number of records. He can carry a team -- whether it's a good team or a team full of call-ups -- and win and produce. Robin is a big goaltender who has a great opportunity to learn."