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Henrik Lundqvist has been arguably the best goalie in hockey. Sitting in the top seed, it would be foolish to think he can’t at least make it past the downwards trending Ottawa Senators. By that same token, the Canucks and Blues dominated all season which makes Jaroslav Halak and Roberto Luongo veritable shoe-ins with their greatest competition coming by way of their backup, not their opponent. Likewise, Tim Thomas has been there, done that and should be able to handle the surging Washington Capitals.
The second tier is bit trickier. Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov have been big parts of their team’s success but only one will advance into round two. Similarly, Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne won’t both make it past seven games. With these two match-ups too close to call, we’ll let you use your own discretion on who to pick. As previously mentioned before, Martin Brodeur could have a swan song of a season with the Devils, discarding the slumping Florida Panthers. That alone should make him worth a decent pick. Lastly, Mike Smith might have finished the season as the best goalie in hockey, grabbing him early might at least get you into the second round.
Our next tier features excellent goalies who might not get a chance to play deep into the playoffs. Jonathan Quick put together an excellent season but the Canucks, as the President’s Trophy winners, are poised to make yet another deep playoff run. Quick would have to be absolutely perfect for the Kings to come out victorious. On the other hand, Niemi and Crawford are both good goalies on underachieving teams but do they have enough to upset a better seed? Also, will Brian Elliott steal the job in St. Louis? These question marks, and more, are what dropped these guys down to the third tier.
Our fourth tier features the leftover starting goalies for the long-shot teams. Braden Holtby might begin the playoffs as the Caps starter, but overturning the defending Stanley Cup Champions is no easy task. Craig Anderson still doesn’t look 100 percent since returning from a finger injury– hard to imagine he can knock out the top team in the Eastern Conference. Scott Clemmensen helped the Panthers clinch the Southeast Division on Saturday night and will face his old team in the New Jersey Devils but does he have enough left in the tank to shutdown the firepower of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk? You might be wondering why Cory Schneider hits this portion of the list. Well, you can never be too careful with the Canucks goaltending situation. I recommend Schneider every season as there really isn’t a better handcuff in the league.
Our final tier, or tier five, is the backups or wild cards.
The recently re-signed Ray Emery has tested Crawford all season, why should the playoffs be any different? Michal Neuvirth may be healthy enough to start although we don’t know that right now. Tomas Vokoun also could make an appearance if the Caps give him enough time. Jose Theodore never officially lost the starting goalie position so he could get into a game or two if Clemmensen fails to show up. Likewise, Ben Bishop could get a taste of the postseason if Andy has an off game.
To summarize, ranking starting goalies could be the trickiest of the primers as an elite tender like Quick, Smith, or Elliott could steal a series or even two out of nowhere. All we could do here at Daily Faceoff is try to assess the risk involved and provide you with the tools to make the appropriate decision.
We hope you enjoyed our latest entry as much as we enjoyed writing it. If there are glaring omissions let your voice be heard in the comments. Regardless, make sure to take all of the advice in and continue to check our renowned starting goalies section, which is updated all hours of the day until puck drop. You can also follow us on Twitter @DailyFaceoff