Ranking the NHL’s Starting Goaltenders in the 2020 Playoffs

At long last, NHL training camps are just around the corner and players are starting to return to the ice. With July 10 as the set date right now, the play-in and round-robin series should be starting at the beginning of August and hockey will officially be back on our televisions. As we all know there are many factors in winning a series and ultimately a Stanley Cup. The old adage of “defence wins championships” is true a lot of the time and goaltending is a huge part of it.

NHL.com recently released their take on the top goaltenders, much to the chagrin of many fans. Most of the debate surrounded Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks, but I’m sure there were many others that disagreed with their goaltender’s rank. So in response, I am going to give you my ranking of the 24 projected starting goaltenders that will guard their team’s cage very soon. Now, this is by no means a ranking of who’s better overall, it is a judgment based on their performance during the 2019-20 season.

Jacob Markstrom Vancouver Canucks
Canucks Twitter was set ablaze after Jacob Markstrom was ranked 13th by NHL.com (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While creating the rankings, I considered some of their advanced statistics like quality start percentage (QS%), really bad starts (RBS), high danger save percentage (HDSV%) and goals saved above average (GSAA) to make it more in-depth than just looking at the normal goals against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%).

For reference purposes, QS% measures the percentage of starts the goaltender’s SV% was higher than the league average. Anything above 60 percent is very good, below 50 percent is poor and 53 percent is average. RBS is the number of starts the goaltender’s SV% dropped below .850 and HDSV% is the percentage of high danger shots the goaltender prevented during the season. Finally, GSAA is a calculation of a goaltender’s performance as compared with his peers. It considers the number of shots he faced and measures it against the league average save percentage on the same number of shots.

I’m sure my rankings will still create some debate, but that’s why we love hockey and sports in general because everyone has their own take on things. So, without further ado, let the ranking begin!

24. Braden Holtby – Washington Capitals

2019-20 Stats: 25 W – 14 L – 6 OTL – 3.11 GAA – .897 SV%

Advanced Stats: 11 RBS – .468 QS% – .786 HDSV% – minus-16.76 GSAA

Despite his sub-par performance in 2019-20, a team will shell out the big money on Braden Holtby this offseason. The Washington Capitals are only in the playoffs because of the offensive firepower they have in Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson. Their goaltending certainly did not do them any favors, as all of his numbers were career-lows and he finished tied for the most RBS in the entire NHL.

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby was less-than-stellar for the Capitals in 2019-20 (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Most of the season the Capitals relied on their offence to get them out of trouble. In the playoffs, that traditionally dries up while defence and line matching reign supreme. If they are going to have any success, Holtby has to be better than he was in the regular season. That’s the bottom line and the reason why he is toiling at the bottom of this list.

23. Sergei Bobrovsky – Florida Panthers

2019-20 Stats: 23 W – 19 L – 6 OTL – 3.23 GAA – .900 SV% – 1 SO

Advanced Stats: 10 RBS – .417 QS% – .833 HDSV% – minus-14.91 GSAA

Coming in slightly above Holtby is Panthers’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. The only reason he is not at the bottom was because of his proficiency at making the high difficulty saves. He also had to make 51 more than him and still came in at a higher SV%. One of the highly sought after goaltenders on the free-agent market last offseason, “Goalie Bob” had one of his worst seasons in the NHL statistically. The last time he had a GAA of over three was back in 2011-12, nearly ten seasons ago.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Just like Holtby, he was in the double digits in RBS and below 50 in QS%. I’m sure Panthers’ fans did not expect that from their prized $10 million dollar signing. If they hope to see more than just a few games of hockey this summer, Bobrovsky has to find a way to channel his Vezina Trophy winning self from 2016-17. If not, the Panthers will be hard-pressed to get past the stifling defence of the New York Islanders, especially if he’s giving up his usual three goals per game.

22. Petr Mrazek – Carolina Hurricanes

2019-20 Stats: 21 W – 16 L – 2 OTL – 2.69 GAA – .905 SV% – 3 SO

Advanced Stats: 7 RBS – .500 QS% – .824 HDSV% – minus-5.35 GSAA

Even though Petr Mrazek did not match his performance from last season, he was still a solid goaltender for the upstart Carolina Hurricanes. His backup James Reimer did not make things easy on him with his play, but he still retains his job as the number one goaltender. His QS% doesn’t bring a lot of confidence with it compared to Reimer’s .625 but considering he has a lot more experience in the playoffs, he will likely be the one in the crease come Game 1.

Petr Mrazek Carolina Hurricanes
Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Related: Carolina Hurricanes’ Goaltending Depth Chart

The break also allowed Mrazek to fully recover from his recent concussion even though he looked solid in his return to the crease when he made 23 saves in a 5-2 win when the Hurricanes last played in March.

21. Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens

2019-20 Stats: 27 W – 25 L – 6 OTL – 2.79 GAA – .909 SV% – 4 SO

Advanced Stats: 11 RBS – .534 QS% – .828 HDSV% – minus-1.31 GSAA

Carey Price will probably go down as one of the best goaltenders the Montreal Canadiens have ever had. However, this season was not his best. After posting a GSAA of 14.94 in 2018-19, he dropped to a -1.31 in 2019-20. He also allowed the most goals of any starting goaltender in the NHL and was tied for the most RBS with 11. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent season cancellation, he would have missed the playoffs for a third straight season. But as luck would have it, the Canadiens were in the top-24 and will be facing the Pittsburgh Penguins for the right to make it to the actual playoffs.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite his struggles in the regular season, Price can still be a marquee goaltender in the NHL. If he gets hot, he has the ability to steal a series or two for the speedy Canadiens. However, if he continues his sub-par play, the Penguins have the firepower to make quick work of them. The trio of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and notorious playoff performer Jake Guentzel (24 goals in 41 games) will certainly make sure of that.

20. Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights

2019-20 Stats: 27 W – 16 L – 5 OTL – 2.77 GAA – .905 SV% – 5 SO

Advanced Stats: 9 RBS – .500 QS% – .811 HDSV% – minus-6.50 GSAA

Even though the Vegas Golden Knights acquired advanced stats darling Robin Lehner (.667 QS%, 10.17 GSAA), I expect they will go with Marc-Andre Fleury in the round-robin and subsequent playoffs. He has a mountain of experience and knows what to expect there, so unless he underachieves in the round-robin, he has control of the crease for now. That’s why you see him here instead of Lehner.

Marc-Andre Fleury Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for Fleury’s performance in the regular season, he is starting to show his age a bit. He had his worst season statistically as a Golden Knight and his worst overall since being dethroned by Matt Murray in Pittsburgh. If he’s not careful, the 28-year-old Lehner could be the guy they go with in the future, especially if he steals the show in the playoffs. However, he’s not far removed from his Stanley Cup Final appearance, so I would not count him out just yet. Though based on recent results, he still finds himself near the bottom of this list.

19. David Rittich – Calgary Flames

2019-20 Stats: 24 W – 17 L – 6 OTL – 2.97 GAA – .907 SV% – 2 SO

Advanced Stats: 7 RBS – .500 QS% – .836 HDSV% – minus-4.35 GSAA

In his first season as the undisputed number one goaltender for the Calgary Flames, David Rittich had good stretches and bad, finishing with a lower GAA and SV% than 2018-19. He also dropped significantly in the key GSAA stat from 1.68 to -4.35. On the bright side, he was very effective at stopping the high danger shots with a solid .836 HDSV%. All in all, Rittich was pretty average for the Flames this season. Unfortunately average will probably not cut it against the wall that is the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck. If he can’t match his play, the series will be over pretty quick.

18. Frederik Andersen – Toronto Maple Leafs

2019-20 Stats: 29 W – 13 L – 7 OTL – 2.85 GAA – .909 SV% – 3 SO

Advanced Stats: 8 RBS – .519 QS% – .805 HDSV% – minus-0.40 GSAA

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of star power and young talent but struggled to find their footing at times this season. Long time head coach Mike Babcock was fired early, which added some early turmoil to the team. Then a new coach in Sheldon Keefe was brought in from the AHL. The Leafs did marginally better with him behind the bench but still found themselves clawing for a playoff spot.

Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Frederik Andersen followed his team’s struggles as he turned in the worst season of his NHL career. After four straight seasons of a positive GSAA, he plummeted to a minus-0.40. To put that in perspective, his last two seasons were 14.48 and 12.06 respectively. That basically sums up his team’s campaign right there. As Andersen goes, the team goes, because the Leafs easily made the playoffs those two seasons.

17. Alex Stalock – Minnesota Wild

2019-20 Stats: 20 W – 11 L – 4 OTL – 2.75 GAA – .910 SV% – 4 SO

Advanced Stats: 5 RBS – .528 QS% – .797 HDSV% – 0.84 GSAA

Putting aside his average overall statistics, Alex Stalock was a revelation for the Minnesota Wild when he took over the net from incumbent Devan Dubnyk. In February alone he posted a record of 7-1 along with a stingy 1.76 GAA, .932 SV%, and two shutouts as well. That allowed his team to push their way back into the playoff picture and into a play-in series against the Vancouver Canucks. He only has one start of playoff experience but considering his performance towards the end of the season, I can’t see the Wild going back to the fading Dubnyk.

16. Mikko Koskinen – Edmonton Oilers

2019-20 Stats: 18 W – 13 L – 3 OTL – 2.75 GAA – .917 SV% – 1 SO

Advanced Stats: 5 RBS – .515 QS% – .851 HDSV% – 9.25 GSAA

When veteran Mike Smith was signed in the offseason, Mikko Koskinen must have thought he lost the number one job. That may have been the case for a while, but he has recently taken the mantel back. Both goaltenders have a below-average QS%, but Koskinen excelled in both GSAA and HDSV%. He also did not have as many bad starts as Smith. Overall, the underlying stats suggest that he should be starting Game 1 against the Blackhawks.

Edmonton Oilers Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Related: Oilers Must Decide on Playoff Goaltender

Koskinen does not have any playoff experience, so that could be the deciding factor in all this. Smith has played 24 games, including a ridiculous run in 2011-12 when he won nine games with a stingy 1.99 GAA and .944 SV%, though he was much younger then. If the Oilers want to give themselves their best chance, I think Koskinen is still the way to go.

15. Juuse Saros – Nashville Predators

2019-20 Stats: 17 W – 12 L – 4 OTL – 2.70 GAA – .914 SV% – 4 SO

Advanced Stats: 3 RBS – .618 QS% – .798 HDSV% – 5.26 GSAA

Juuse Saros took advantage of Pekka Rinne’s struggles and became the number one goaltender for the Nashville Predators in 2019-20. The 25-year-old bided his time behind the all-star goaltender and has finally taken the reigns. Before the season was put on pause, he was one of the hottest goaltenders in the league, posting a 3-0 record in March along with two shutouts.

Juuse Saros Nashville Predators
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Predators struggled to produce offence from their forward ranks this season as their leading scorer was defenceman Roman Josi. So when they go up against another stout goaltender in Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes, Saros is going to have to be just as good or better in order for them to compete. Unless Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson wake up from their slumber, he is going to have to win them some games.

14. Semyon Varlamov – New York Islanders

2019-20 Stats: 19 W – 14 L – 6 OTL – 2.62 GAA – .914 SV% – 2 SO

Advanced Stats: 4 RBS – .538 QS% – .827 HDSV% – 5.56 GSAA

After Robin Lehner turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy season in 2019-20 and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Islanders were left with a massive hole in the crease. Luckily, free agent signing Semyon Varlamov and veteran backup Thomas Greiss have turned into quite the duo for Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders. Both of them had an average QS% and a positive GSAA as well. All that translated to goaltending that Trotz could count on night in and night out, no matter who he threw in.

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even though both goaltenders had nearly identical stats, Varlamov will probably start Game 1 against the Panthers. He came out on top in the two key advanced stats and he rarely had a bad game, as evidenced by the paltry four RBS he had in the 39 times Trotz tapped him on the shoulder. He should be well equipped to challenge Bobrovsky at the other end.

13. Corey Crawford – Chicago Blackhawks

2019-20 Stats: 16 W – 20 L – 3 OTL – 2.77 GAA – .917 SV% – 1 SO

Advanced Stats: 3 RBS – .641 QS% – .802 HDSV% – 9.01 GSAA

Injury problems have followed Corey Crawford in recent seasons, but that has not stopped him from remaining a solid starting goaltender for the Blackhawks. So much so that they felt comfortable trading Lehner to the Golden Knights. Granted they thought they would be missing the playoffs, but the fact remains, he can still make a difference in goal. He was notably absent in the top-16 on NHL.com, but he should be given more recognition for the season he had.

Crawford was third in QS% among goaltenders that started at least 30 games and he didn’t have many bad starts either with an RBS of only three. He also finished the season strong by winning five of his last seven games while only once allowing more than two goals. The Blackhawks would not have made the playoffs under normal circumstances, but with the 87 games and two Stanley Cups he has on his resume, anything could happen now.

12. Jordan Binnington – St. Louis Blues

2019-20 Stats: 30 W – 13 L – 7 OTL – 2.56 GAA – .912 SV% – 3 SO

Advanced Stats: 5 RBS – .560 QS% – .776 HDSV% – 3.31 GSAA

Jordan Binnington has proven that he is not a one-hit-wonder after willing the St Louis Blues into the playoffs and eventually a Stanley Cup Championship in 2018-19. He has come back down to earth a little though in his first full season as a starting goaltender.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Binnington did have 30 wins to his credit, but his underlying stats are not of the elite variety. They are not bad by any means, just average. That’s why he finds himself in the middle of the pack among the playoff starters. His QS% was dangerously close to average and his GSAA was not in the upper echelon either. His playoff experience and ability to close out a game are the main reasons he’s not in the 15-20 range. Time will tell if he can duplicate his Stanley Cup winning performance from last season.

11. Carter Hart – Philadelphia Flyers

2019-20 Stats: 24 W – 13 L – 3 OTL – 2.42 GAA – .914 SV% – 1 SO

Advanced Stats: 9 RBS – .625 QS% – .763 HDSV% – 4.47 GSAA

After many seasons of futility, the Philadelphia Flyers look to have found the answer to their goaltending question. 21-year-old Carter Hart had an impressive rookie season in 2018-19, but this season was even better. Hart may have started out slow with eight RBS and a minus-2.62 GSAA at the mid-point of the season, but since then he had only one and increased his GSAA to 4.47. He also had an impressive .625 QS% which puts him on the very good side of the ledger.

Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Since February, Hart has posted a record of 9-2 which included a 1.90 GAA and .934 SV%. He also had a seven-game winning streak snapped in the final game of the season against the Boston Bruins. If he can shake off the rust from the extended layoff, the Flyers will not have to worry about their goaltending in the playoffs.

10. Igor Shesterkin – New York Rangers

2019-20 Stats: 10 W – 2 L – 2.52 GAA – .932 SV%

Advanced Stats: 1 RBS – .750 QS% – .778 HDSV% – 9.34 GSAA

I’m sure there will be a lot of debate with the choice to put the New York Rangers young stud Igor Shesterkin in the top-10. I just have this feeling that he will put on a similar show as Binnington did last season. I may be wrong, but I think he has proven to everyone that he is one to watch. Just look at the stats, he won 10 of his first 12 starts, posted a solid save percentage and only one of those was a RBS. He also had an impressive .750 QS% and 9.34 GSAA.

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That may have just been a solid stretch of hockey for the young Russian, but Shesterkin could surprise everyone. These are interesting times, and stranger things have happened. The Rangers will be playing the Hurricanes, so it’s not like he will be facing an offensive juggernaut. Alexander Georgiev could come into play too, but if I was the Rangers, I would give the young man a chance to catch fire.

9. Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh Penguins

2019-20 Stats: 20 W – 12 L – 1 OTL – 2.43 GAA – .921 SV% – 3 SO

Advanced Stats: 3 RBS – .613 QS% – .802 HDSV% – 11.07 GSAA

After three seasons of being the undisputed starter of the Penguins, Matt Murray appears to have been overtaken by 25-year-old Tristan Jarry. His four-game losing streak and 18 goals against before the pause would be cause for concern if these were normal circumstances, but it shouldn’t matter when the playoffs ultimately begin. Overall, he’s put together a solid campaign since seemingly taking over the crease.

Tristan Jarry Pittsburgh Penguins
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Jarry’s underlying stats were very impressive considering how long he’s been a starter in the NHL, as he maintained a solid QS% of .613 along with a gaudy 11.07 GSAA. His GAA and SV% were also ranked in the top-ten. He doesn’t have any playoff experience, but I still think the Penguins will go with him for Game 1. Despite struggling before the pause, he has earned the right to control the crease for the time being. Though, if he falters, Murray will be called upon to draw on the experience he has of 48 games and two Stanley Cups.

8. Elvis Merzlikins – Columbus Blue Jackets

2019-20 Stats: 13 W – 9 L – 8 OTL – 2.35 GAA – .923 SV% – 5 SO

Advanced Stats: 3 RBS – .548 QS% – .845 HDSV% – 12.10 GSAA

Elvis has not left the building just yet. When the Columbus Blue Jackets lost Bobrovsky to free agency, no one knew what the goaltending was going to be like. Joonas Korpisalo got the majority of the starts at the beginning of the season, but when he got injured, it became the Elvis Merzlikins show.

Elvis Merzlikins Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There was a stretch where Merzlikins played like a man possessed, rattling off five shutouts in eight games. He came down from that high towards the end of the season, but he still finished with a solid 2.35 GAA and .923 SV%. He also had one of the highest GSAAs at 12.10 and was almost unbeatable when it came to high danger shots denying almost 85 percent of them. It is not clear yet which way head coach John Tortorella will go with his goaltending in the playoffs, but if I was him, I would not hesitate to go with the uber-rookie.

7. Pavel Francouz – Colorado Avalanche

2019-20 Stats: 21 W – 7 L – 4 OTL – 2.41 GAA – .923 SV% – 1 SO

Advanced Stats: 5 RBS – .567 QS% – .806 HDSV% – 13.06 GSAA

Philipp Grubauer may have started out as the number goaltender in the Mile High City at the beginning of the season, but it’s Pavel Francouz’s crease right now. When an injury felled him in February, Francouz took the reigns and never looked back. Technically still a rookie in the NHL at 30-years-old, he has made the decision very difficult for Jared Bednar when it comes time to choose his goaltender for Game 1 of the round-robin. Francouz had the sixth-best GSAA and was in the top-10 in both GAA and SV% as well. He also was in the top-20 in wins with 21.

Pavel Francouz Colorado Avalanche
Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unlike the teams in the play-in round, the Colorado Avalanche have the luxury of experimenting with their goaltenders. We will see who they ultimately choose when the playoffs begin.

6. Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning

2019-20 Stats: 35 W – 14 L – 3 OTL – 2.56 GAA – .917 SV% – 3 SO

Advanced Stats: 7 RBS – .596 QS% – .844 HDSV% – 12.13 GSAA

Andrei Vasilevskiy had a bit of an average year by his standards, but he is still an elite goaltender in the NHL. His stats were all down from last season, but he maintained a solid 12.13 GSAA and was close to posting a very good QS% as well. He also led the league in wins again with 35, something he’s done for the past three seasons now. He even had a stretch where he went 18-0-2 with a 1.95 GAA and .935 SV% which also included two shutouts. That was almost two and a half months without an outright loss.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Vasilevskiy can duplicate that performance, the Lightning will be raising the Stanley Cup in a few months’ time. His team was not as dominant as last season, but they are still a dangerous team to contend with. With him in net, they could go all the way. Although that’s what we thought in 2019, and the Blue Jackets surprised everyone by eliminating them in the first round. It’s not clear yet what team they will face in the first round, but I’m sure that experience will be fresh in their minds.

5. Jacob Markstrom – Vancouver Canucks

2019-20 Stats: 23 W – 16 L – 4 OTL – 2.75 GAA – .918 SV% – 2 SO

Advanced Stats: 5 RBS – .581 QS% – .836 HDSV% – 11.40 GSAA

If 2018-19 was the season Jacob Markstrom arrived as a starting goaltender in the NHL, then 2019-20 was the season he entered the realm of the elite. If not for him the Vancouver Canucks would not be on the cusp of competing in their first playoff series in four seasons. The Masterson Trophy nominee was arguably their MVP from game one and could be regarded as a Hart Trophy candidate as well. That’s how important he was to their success.

Related: Canucks’ Markstrom Making a Case for Vezina and Hart Consideration

Markstrom’s basic stats of GAA and SV% definitely don’t scream elite, but his underlying stats paint a different picture. His 11.40 GSAA was just outside the top-10 and his HDSV% was a very solid .836. He also had to contend with the tenth-most high danger shots among starters as well as eight games where he had to face 40 shots or more. Though that’s not the most impressive part, he had a ridiculous 2.12 GAA, .952 SV%, and two shutouts in those games. Needless to say, he seems to love it when he’s the busier of the two goaltenders.

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What’s more, Markstrom had to battle the sickness and passing of his father through it all too. He left the team twice during the season for personal reasons, but still maintained his elite play when he would have been forgiven for losing focus. I’m sure his father is looking down proud of the goaltender he’s become. If he can bring that emotion and elite play into the play-in round, the Wild will have their work cut out for them if they hope to move on.

4. Ben Bishop – Dallas Stars

2019-20 Stats: 21 W – 16 L – 4 OTL – 2.50 GAA – .914 SV% – 2 SO

Advanced Stats: 5 RBS – .628 QS% – .847 HDSV% – 13.29 GSAA

Over the last two seasons Ben Bishop has established himself as one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. He led the league with a 32.24 GSAA in 2018-19 and finished fifth this season with another solid 13.29 while maintaining a .628 QS% as well. His backup Anton Khudobin produced more impressive numbers, but the Dallas Stars are his team to lead right now. He has way more playoff experience and has proven in the past to be a difference-maker when the pressure amps up.

3. Darcy Kuemper – Arizona Coyotes

2019-20 Stats: 16 W – 11 L – 2 OTL – 2.22 GAA – .928 SV% – 2 SO

Advanced Stats: 2 RBS – .759 QS% – .841 HDSV% – 16.65 GSAA

If not for some injury problems this season, Darcy Kuemper would have been a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy. Luckily for the Coyotes, he’s healthy now and could be poised to carry the surprising team to the promised land. The proof is in his stats, as he does not have any that he’s lacking in. His GAA and SV% are second only to Tuukka Rask, and his GSAA is third among starters. Finally, he’s first in QS% and pretty solid at stopping high danger shots too. Basically he’s money when he’s in goal.

Darcy Kuemper Arizona Coyotes
Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Coyotes managed to stay afloat without him, but now that he’s back, they could surprise some people. As a great defensive team, they are built for the rigors of the tight-checking atmosphere of the playoffs. Along with the stingy goaltending of Kuemper and potential difference makers in Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, the Predators could be in for a tough series.

2. Connor Hellebuyck – Winnipeg Jets

2019-20 Stats: 31 W – 21 L – 5 OTL – 2.57 GAA – .922 SV% – 6 SO

Advanced Stats: 6 RBS – .643 QS% – .876 HDSV% – 22.40 GSAA

To say that Hellebuyck bounced back this season would be a massive understatement. Behind a questionable defence he played a pivotal role in bringing the Winnipeg Jets back to the playoffs. He faced the most shots and made the most saves in the entire NHL for the second straight season and surprisingly posted a solid .922 SV%. He also led the league in shutouts with six.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Related: Jets’ Hellebuyck Deserves Vezina & Hart Consideration

Just like the Canucks, the Jets would not be where they are without their starting goaltender. If the basic stats don’t convince you of his prowess, the advanced stats certainly will. He posted a 22.40 GSAA and an otherworldly .876 HDSV% while facing 412 high danger shots against, which led the league. Those types of shots are way harder to stop, and the Jets allowed them way too often. Luckily, Hellebuyck was there to stop them. If he’s not strongly considered for the Vezina and Hart Trophies, there’s something wrong.

1. Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins

2019-20 Stats: 26 W – 8 L – 6 OTL – 2.12 GAA – .929 SV% – 5 SO

Advanced Stats: 3 RBS – .683 QS% – .844 HDSV% – 22.51 GSAA

Tuukka Rask has been a brick wall for the Bruins ever since the playoffs began last season. From his GAA of 2.12 and SV% of .929 to his .683 QS% and 22.51 GSAA, he stands alone on the peak of the mountain. Granted, his team finished with the Presidents’ Trophy and was one of the best teams defensively, but he was still a huge part of their success. The fact that he only had three RBS all season long just adds to his resume for top dog among starting goaltenders.

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Related: Bruins’ Rask Has Strong Vezina Case

There are many candidates for the Vezina Trophy this season, but Rask has the best chance of winning it. Although, if it’s also about being an MVP, then Hellebuyck and Markstrom should be strongly considered too, as they were way more responsible for their team’s success. However, that should not discount the season Rask had. If the Bruins are going to have a chance at winning it all this season, he has to be front and center once again. If the 2019 playoffs are any indication of how he will perform, then teams should prepare to be frustrated.

Goaltending Will Be a Major Factor in the Playoffs

There you have it, a ranking of all 24 potential starters in the coming play-in and round-robin. There are a lot of things that could change from now and the beginning of the annual grind, but one thing is for sure, goaltending will be a major factor. I challenge you to find one playoff year where it was not key in a team’s pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Will a rookie steal the show again, or will it be a seasoned veteran this time? All I have to say is, drop the puck already!

All stats were taken from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick