A lot goes into building a great NHL team, but one constant is always necessary: solid goaltending. Poor goaltending can end the dreams of even the most spectacular offensive teams, and a great goaltender can put a team on his shoulders and lead them on a run all the way to the Stanley Cup.
This season, plenty of goalies will compete for the honor of being the league’s best goaltender – and for the even greater honor of hoisting the Stanley Cup. Which goalkeeper has the early lead in the 2015-16? Let’s have some fun and take a very early look.
Honorable Mentions: the Rising Backups
Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets
Save percentage: .949
So far, Hutchinson has started four games this year and remains a backup to Ondrej Pavelec. That may not be the case for too long. When an NHL player takes a shot on Michael Hutchinson, there’s 94.9% chance that the puck won’t hit the back of the net. That’s a statistic that no other goalie in the league can match, and it’s an unbelievable achievement for a young goalie who is just 25 years old. Can Hutchinson keep this up? Actually, we think he can. He’s had strong performances against scary teams like the Blackhawks and the Rangers.
Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers
Save percentage: 9.47
Michael Neuvirth, like Hutchinson, is a backup. Like Hutchinson, he has started four games. And like Hutchinson, he’s a very promising young goalie. He’s leading the NHL in goals against average, and he’s second in save percentage (just .002 behind the leader – who is Michael Hutchinson). Neuvirth also is tied for the league lead in shutouts right now (2) despite starting fewer games than most of his peers. The 27-year old goalie is in his first year in Philadelphia, and the Philly brass has got to be pleased that they brought him in.
The Top Goalies of 2015-16, So Far
- Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Save percentage: .934
Rinne got some serious hype coming into this season. Rinne was last year’s Vezina finalist (behind Carey Price), and he’s started out very strong this year. Of all of the guys on this list, Rinne may be the most likely to hold onto his spot in the rankings – or rise to the top of them.
- Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders
Save percentage: .940
Halak has has some great runs in his career, and he may be gearing up for another one. Some were concerned about Halak coming into this season, but he’s made the Islanders very comfortable while he’s been in net. The 30-year-old may make this a season to remember in New York.
- Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
Save percentage: .938
Jones is just 25 years old and had a total of 34 professional games coming into this season. He’s shown a lot of promise in the early going this year: he shut out Washington and Anaheim, though the New York Rangers made him look mortal. Don’t bet against this kid. We doubt he’ll stay the second-best all year, but he could easily remain elite.
- Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Save percentage: .941
It’s no surprise to find Lundqvist among the top goalies, though even by his standards, he’s been wonderful start to the season. He has the highest save percentage of any full-time starter, and he’s in the top five among starters in goals against average as well. Most observers thought this would be the year of Carey Price or Pekka Rinne – and it still might be, but they’ll have to dethrone King Henrik first.