Ranking Every NHL Team's Top Goaltender

Rob VollmanContributor INovember 29, 2013

Ranking Every NHL Team's Top Goaltender

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Which team has the best starting goalie? Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask are just two of many netminders who are frequently referred to as the league's best. Can analytics help shed some light on where each team currently ranks?

    To answer this we'll need to avoid two common mistakes when evaluating goalies while using hockey analytics. The first is to avoid using only a single evaluation metric, and second is to use a large enough sample size.

    Goalies have a true talent level, and statistics can only be used to try to estimate what that level is. The more data we have and the more types of data we use, the more accurate that estimate becomes.

    That's why we're using the last five years of data for these rankings, from 2009-10 up until this past week-end. That's also why we're looking at save percentage in a variety of different ways, but at even strength only. Wins and shutouts are being ignored to instead focus on how frequently each goalie is posting quality starts (games where they stop at least a league-average number of shots).

    Given the five-year spread of data being used, an indication of which way each goalie is trending is being included as well. For example, Steve Mason is currently much better than his numbers over the past few years would suggest, just like Tim Thomas is currently a little worse.

    The end result isn't meant as a definitive ordering, but instead as merely the best estimate possible using the available data. Click "next" to begin.

     

    All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.

30. Reto Berra, Calgary Flames

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    Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .891

    Relative to Partners: -.004

    True Talent: Between .850 and .932

    Quality Starts: 44.4 percent

    Trend: Unknown

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $850,000

    Miikka Kiprusoff's retirement left quite a hole in Calgary, one it attempted to fill with career backup Joey MacDonald, KHL star Karri Ramo and most recently 26-year-old Swiss newcomer Reto Berra.

    Regardless of who ultimately winds up the No. 1 goalie by season's end, none of them are currently competing at the level of a legitimate NHL starting goaltender.

    It's going to be a long year for the Calgary Flames, who have yet to hold opponents to fewer than two goals in a game and have allowed at least three in 18 of their 24 games.

29. Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .916

    Relative to Partners: Same

    True Talent: Between .909 and .923

    Quality Starts: 50.2 percent

    Trend: Up

    Additional Credentials: 2009 Vezina Trophy runner-up, 2009 Calder Trophy

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $1.5 million 

    Steve Mason has been one of the league's best goalies this season, recording an amazing .940 even-strength save percentage so far.

    Do we have this list backward?

    There's no question that Mason is having a fantastic bounce-back season, thanks in part to Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese, and that his low-risk and low-cost deal was pure genius. But let's not overlook Mason's past.

    After a solid rookie season where he posted a .925 even-strength save percentage, which is around the league average, Mason consistently finished at .911 for the four seasons after that. Yes, exactly .911—was that a call for help?

    Mason is only 25 years old, and it's possible that his years in Columbus weren't a true reflection of his abilities. But from a strict analytical perspective, Philadelphia's star goalie has never before shown the ability to play anywhere near this level for extended periods of time.

28. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .917

    Relative to Partners: +.004

    True Talent: Between .910 and .924

    Quality Starts: 46.8 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.9 million 

    Ondrej Pavelec is earning his keep so far this year, recording a perfectly respectable .924 even-strength save percentage. That, however, is probably near his high-water mark.

    Other than another strong season in 2010-11, when he posted a .928 even-strength save percentage, the 26-year-old Czech's numbers have always been well below league average.

    Pavelec is also the only starting NHL goalie with a quality-start percentage below 50 percent going into this season. That means that at least half the time Pavelec isn't stopping a league-average number of shots and giving the Jets a fair chance of winning.

    Either Pavelec will need to continue this year's strong play, or Winnipeg will need a much better offense.

27. Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .917

    Relative to Partners: +.006

    True Talent: Between .908 and .926

    Quality Starts: 50.3 percent

    Trend: Down

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.5 million 

    Devan Dubnyk is having a terrible year and could soon lose the No. 1 job to the recently signed Ilya Bryzgalov.

    Don't close the book too quickly on Dubnyk, however. His .927 even-strength save percentage in 42 starts in 2011-12 was solid and was sandwich by decent .921 and .922 seasons. This year's struggles could just be a cold stretch as Edmonton's 2004 first-rounder battles behind a bad defensive team.

    At 27 there is certainly still time for Dubnyk to turn things around and return to the approximately league-average level he's played at for the previous three seasons.

26. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .921

    Relative to Partners: -.002

    True Talent: Between .915 and .928

    Quality Starts: 55.9 percent

    Trend: Down

    Additional Credentials: 2009 All-Star

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.416+ million 

    Niklas Backstrom started 41 of 48 games for Minnesota last year and recorded an even-strength save percentage of just .914. That's bad, but not as bad as the .912 he posted in 58 starts in 2009-10.

    Of course, Backstrom's even-strength save percentage was between .928 and .931 in the two years in between, and he was absolutely unbeatable in his first NHL season back in 2006-07, so it's hard to judge exactly what the 35-year-old's true talent really is.

    This year, the undrafted Finn has struggled through injuries but has started the last three games and allowed exactly two goals each time. Backstrom will need to continue to play that well if he is to fend off the red-hot Josh Harding for Minnesota's top spot.

25. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .919

    Relative to Partners: +.004

    True Talent: Between .912 and .925

    Quality Starts: 54.5 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2011 All-Star, 2009 Stanley Cup finalist

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.0 million 

    Just like Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr, Marc-Andre Fleury may be one of those goalies whose true talent isn't best viewed through an analytics lens.

    Selected first overall in the 2003 entry draft, Fleury has played more games than all but eight active NHL goalies but is without a single season completed near the top of a statistical leader board. He won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 but has failed to post even a .900 save percentage in any postseason since then.

    Fleury's even-strength save percentage tends to swing up and down but is generally centered around the .920 mark, exactly where the 29-year-old is this year. While that's certainly good enough for a high-scoring team like Pittsburgh to be successful, it's also several points below average for an NHL starting goaltender.

24. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .920

    Relative to Partners: +.012 (eighth)

    True Talent: Between .913 and .928

    Quality Starts: 56.3 percent

    Trend: Down

    Additional Credentials: 2008 Vezina Trophy finalist, two-time All-Star

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.25 million 

    Evgeni Nabokov is out for at least a month with a groin injury, but unfortunately the extent of his injury wasn't known until after this ranking was already laid out.

    Kevin Poulin is the current Islanders starting goalie, and he would probably have ranked even lower anyway. As much as Nabokov has struggled, he's still been an upgrade over the team's alternatives. The Islanders have done a great job adding forward depth, and their next steps are in net and on the blue line.

    As for Nabokov, the 38-year-old was once one of the league's greats, but he has been trending down. His even-strength save percentage this season is just .905, down from .916 and .917 the two previous years, when he started 41 games apiece. If he can rebound to previous levels upon his return, then his 13th NHL season may not be his last.

23. Ben Scrivens, Los Angeles Kings

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .921

    Relative to Partners: +.006

    True Talent: Between .904 and .939

    Quality Starts: 58.3 percent

    Trend: Up

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $550,000 

    The Kings couldn't have asked for any more from Ben Scrivens since Jonathan Quick's injury required him to take over the starting duties.

    The undrafted 27-year-old, who was acquired in the Jonathan Bernier trade with Toronto this summer, is paid the league minimum and yet has recorded an amazing .944 even-strength save percentage while boasting a 191-minute shutout streak last week.

    With only 37 NHL starts to go on, it's hard to determine what Scrivens' true talent level really is. His even-strength save percentage was only .910 and .920 his two years in Toronto, suggesting that his current play might be more of a hot streak than what Los Angeles should expect over the long term.

22. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .921

    Relative to Partners: +.005

    True Talent: Between .907 and .936

    Quality Starts: 62.5 percent (sixth)

    Trend: Up

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $2.3 million 

    With only 57 NHL starts over five seasons, it remains to be seen if Ben Bishop's current play is indicative of his true talent or just a hot stretch.

    Things certainly look promising for the 6'7", 27-year-old goaltender. His even-strength save percentage this year is .931, a slight improvement over last year's .928. If it holds, that's a level which would normally place a goalie just inside the top 10.

    Acquired from Ottawa last year for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round draft choice, Bishop has posted the sixth-highest quality-start percentage among NHL goalies over the past five seasons. After all these years, Tampa Bay might finally have found its star goalie.

21. Mike Smith, Phoenix, Coyotes

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .924

    Relative to Partners: +.007

    True Talent: Between .917 and .931

    Quality Starts: 53.0 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.66+ million (ninth) 

    After two horrible years in Tampa Bay with even-strength save percentages of just .906 and .900, Mike Smith exploded with an outstanding 2011-12 season in Phoenix. His even-strength save percentage vaulted to .936, a trend that continued into the postseason, where he had an overall save percentage of .944 and three shutouts in 16 games.

    In fact, shutouts have been Smith's specialty lately. He finished third that year with eight shutouts and led the NHL with five shutouts the next season. Shutouts are, however, a mixed bag in the world of analytics. If a goalie's overall numbers don't improve along with the shutout totals, that generally means that the number of four- and five-goal nights went up at the same rate.

    Why is this a problem?

    Most teams would rather have someone who consistently allows a couple of goals a night than someone who bounces from zero to five like Smith. That also explains his relatively low quality-start percentage.

    Despite falling to a less spectacular .924 even-strength save percentage over the past two seasons, the 31-year-old veteran was able to cash in on his great 2011-12 season with a huge deal this past summer.

    Phoenix is obviously intent on getting full value out of that contract, assigning Smith 83 percent of the team's minutes so far this year, despite backup Thomas Greiss' perfectly solid play. It will be interesting to see how long that continues after Greiss held Minnesota to a single goal, following three straight four-goal appearances from Smith.

20. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

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    Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .924

    Relative to Partners: +.009

    True Talent: Between .917 and .931

    Quality Starts: 56.6 percent

    Trend: Down

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.18+ million 

    Despite flashes of brilliance, including last year's jaw-dropping .943 even-strength save percentage, Craig Anderson has generally been a usable but fairly mediocre starting goalie (analytically, at least).

    Anderson has posted an even-strength save percentage between .917 and .920 in three of the past four seasons, which is likely the lower boundary of his true talent, with the upper boundary being the .926-to-.928 range he generally hit before that.

    Playing behind a puzzlingly bad Ottawa defense, Anderson is having a truly awful season that's putting the 11-year veteran in danger of losing the starting assignment to Robin Lehner.

19. Marek Mazanec, Nashville Predators

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .925

    Relative to Partners: +.015

    True Talent: Between .886 and .964

    Quality Starts: 66.7 percent

    Trend: Unknown

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $610,000 

    Obviously there's no way to tell how good Marek Mazanec is using analytics, because there's just not enough data.

    Given that he wasn't particularly dominant in the Czech league and that he wasn't selected until the sixth round of the 2012 NHL entry draft, the 22-year-old rookie probably doesn't really rank this high.

    Then again, Mazanec played well in his five AHL games and has been strong since taking over for Carter Hutton as Pekka Rinne's replacement in the NHL, with a current streak of seven straight quality starts, including shutouts against Columbus and Detroit.

    It's really anybody's guess how good Mazanec really is. Who knows, since Rinne was an eighth-round selection himself, the Predators may have won the late-round goalie lottery once again.

18. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .924

    Relative to Partners: +.002

    True Talent: Between .916 and .932

    Quality Starts: 56.5 percent

    Trend: Up

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $2.83+ million

    Drafted in the first round by the Capitals in 2006, Colorado acquired Semyon Varlamov in the summer of 2011 for the steep price of a first- and a second-round NHL entry draft selection.

    At first it looked like a bad deal, as his even-strength save percentage continued to drop from its initially strong level of .930 to .923 and .911 in the Russian's first two years in Colorado. Often struggling, and even losing the starting job to veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere at various times, things were looking awfully grim.

    Fortunately for Varlamov, the arrival of legendary coach Patrick Roy has helped the 25-year-old to a strong bounce-back season, as he's posted an outstanding .939 even-strength save percentage so far this year.

    Continued exceptional play from Varlamov and Giguere is absolutely critical to a team that is otherwise being outshot and outplayed on a nightly basis.

17. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .923

    Relative to Partners: +.019 (first)

    True Talent: Between .914 and .932

    Quality Starts: 58.5 percent (15th)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2013 Stanley Cup, 2013 William Jennings Trophy, 2011 All-Rookie Team

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $2.66+ million 

    Corey Crawford had a disappointing 2011-12 season, posting an even-strength save percentage of just .915 in 55 starts. That, combined with a .908 overall save percentage in his five AHL seasons, may have led Chicago to question its choice of starting goalies.

    In his 48 starts since then, however, Crawford's even-strength save percentage is up over .930, which would rank the 28-year-old in the league's top 10 if it persists.

    The Blackhawks clearly believe that it will, agreeing to a six-year extension, which will take effect next year and carries a cap hit of $6.0 million per season. That's not something a cap-strapped club would do if it didn't have complete confidence that he's a lot better than his analytics suggest.

16. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .924

    Relative to Partners: +.012 (10th)

    True Talent: Between .918 and .930

    Quality Starts: 57.0 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2011 All-Star, 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy, Stanley Cup

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.3 million (fifth) 

    Brian Burke's choice for Team Canada is 29-year-old Cam Ward, who recently came back from a lower-body injury and has recorded only 26 starts over the past two seasons.

    Drafted by Carolina in the first round of the 2002 NHL entry draft, Ward's NHL career kicked off with a bang and a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006. After that his even-strength save percentage was consistently in the decent .924-to-.927 range up until 2010-11, when it sagged down to the more troubling .917-to-.919 level.

    While Ward appears to be playing back at his old level so far this year, and he's always offered the Hurricanes a huge upgrade over their other options, the suggestion that he's good enough to play for Team Canada seems a little far-fetched.

    A decent NHL starter, yes. An Olympic-level goalie, no.

15. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .924

    Relative to Partners: +.013 (seventh)

    True Talent: Between .917 and .931

    Quality Starts: 60.3 percent (11th)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2012 All-Star, 2010 Calder Trophy finalist

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.29+ million 

    Jimmy Howard is having a tough year with an even-strength save percentage of just .909, reminiscent of his equally tough 2010-11 season, when he posted a .916 mark.

    It's important to look at his entire picture, which includes a mighty .937 even-strength save percentage last year, when he started 42 of Detroit's 48 games. He also posts excellent quality-start percentages and usually outperforms his goaltending partners by a wide margin (until this year).

    Still, all this up-and-down performance makes it hard to pin down Howard's true talent level. Is the 29-year-old one of the league's stronger goalies, or is he merely an adequate starter occasionally made to shine by a strong team?

    The truth is probably halfway in between.

14. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues

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    Mark Buckner/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .926 (14th)

    Relative to Partners: +.005

    True Talent: Between .918 and .933

    Quality Starts: 58.1 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2012 William Jennings Trophy

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.75 million 

    Jaroslav Halak's true talent level is hard to pin down, especially with his poor showing last season.

    Halak posted a sensational .933 even-strength save percentage his last year in Montreal, after which he was traded to St. Louis in June 2010 for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. He also posted an even better .938 his second year in St. Louis, winning the William Jennings Trophy along with partner Brian Elliott. But otherwise his numbers have varied from .911 to .922.

    Overall, the 28-year-old Slovakian's numbers average out to something pretty solid and are certainly strong enough for a great defensive team like the Blues to consistently win games.

13. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

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    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .925

    Relative to Partners: -.001

    True Talent: Between .918 and .931

    Quality Starts: 58.1 percent

    Trend: Up

    Additional Credentials: Three All-Star games, 2008 All-Rookie Team

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.5 million (fourth) 

    Thanks to his new goalie coach Stephane Waite, Carey Price is having his best year ever, posting an amazing .947 even-strength save percentage. This season is already reminiscent of his spectacular 2010-11 campaign, when he started 70 games and recorded a .931 even-strength save percentage.

    Of course, Price's career hasn't always been that successful. In four of the past six seasons he had very mediocre even-strength save percentages between .918 and .921, which is likely the lower boundary of his true talent level.

    The ceiling on Montreal's 26-year-old goalie, whom it drafted fifth overall in 2005, is much higher. At his best he is probably a top-10 goalie—a reputation he won't earn until he posts a couple more seasons like this.

12. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .926 (12th)

    Relative to Partners: +.006

    True Talent: Between .917 and .935

    Quality Starts: 61.7 percent (seventh)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2013 Vezina Trophy winner

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.625 million (10th) 

    It may seem unusual to rank the defending Vezina champion this low on the list, but the 25-year-old Russian's true talent is unusually hard to pin down.

    Acquired from Philly for three draft picks, Bobrovsky may have posted an amazing .941 even-strength save percentage last year, but it's only .916 this season—the same as it was the year before. It was .923 in his rookie season prior to that. 

    Good goalies can go through hot stretches that make them play at a level far higher than they can sustain over the long term. While that's likely the case with Bobrovsky, only time will tell.

11. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .926

    Relative to Partners: +.014 (sixth)

    True Talent: Between .919 and .932

    Quality Starts: 56.4 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.9 million (seventh) 

    The amazingly consistent Kari Lehtonen has posted even-strength save percentages between .924 and .928 over the past four seasons, and they weren't much lower before then.

    The 30-year-old Finn's true claim to fame is the huge advantage he's always represented over his goaltending partners. Playing behind some poor defenses over his nine NHL seasons, including only one that qualified for the postseason, Lehtonen has posted an even-strength save percentage a whopping 14 points higher than his backups. This fact has never been as obvious as this season, with the huge gulf between his results and those of Dan Ellis.

    While not one of the league's elite goalies, Lehtonen is a fantastic example of a strong, reliable goalie that can help even weak teams remain competitive. Both his numbers and his reputation might very well have been far superior if he had been playing for a better team these past few years.

10. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .926 (15th)

    Relative to Partners: +.002

    True Talent: Between .913 and .939

    Quality Starts: 69.8 percent (first)

    Trend: Up

    Additional Credentials: 2010 AHL Outstanding Goalkeeper

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $2.9 million 

    Having never started more than 22 games in a season, it's awfully hard to pin down Jonathan Bernier's true talent level. His even-strength save percentage has been as low as .901 in 2011-12 and as high as .942 this current season, and the 25-year-old has stolen the starting job away from James Reimer.

    Drafted 11th overall in 2006 by Los Angeles, Toronto acquired the league's quality start leader in a multi-player deal this past offseason. Getting outshot and outplayed every night, the Maple Leafs are a team that relies on elite goaltending, a situation that could easily lead to a Vezina for Bernier should his incredible play continue.

9. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .925

    Relative to Partners: +.008

    True Talent: Between .919 and .931 (eighth)

    Quality Starts: 60.5 percent (10th)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2010 Vezina Trophy, 2010 Olympic silver medal and MVP

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.25 million (sixth) 

    Considering he's playing for a team like Buffalo, it's easy to forget just how good Ryan Miller is—a goalie who was universally ranked as the world's best as recently as 2010. That's the year he was named both the MVP of the Olympics and awarded the Vezina as the NHL's best goalie.

    While it's true that Miller has never posted an overall .920 save percentage outside of his amazing 2010 season, not many other goalies have. Those that have crossed the .920 mark more than once lack Miller's consistency. The 33-year-old has posted even-strength save percentages between .922 and .928 in each of his other seasons in the past five years.

    While potentially not the elite goalie he appeared to be in 2010, he is consistently one of the NHL's better netminders.

8. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .927 (11th)

    Relative to Partners: +.014 (fourth)

    True Talent: Between .921 and .934 (seventh)

    Quality Starts: 58.4 percent

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2011 All-Star

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $4.5 million 

    Jonas Hiller could be one of the free-agent steals of the 2014 offseason and is a great example of how raw save percentages can be misleading.

    If you consider only even-strength situations, Hiller has only really had a single mediocre season, and that was in 2011-12 when he posted a .915 save percentage while starting an excessive 73 games.

    Other than that one year, 58 games is his single-season career high, and his even-strength save percentages have ranged between an awesome .930 and an elite .936. This year, like the two prior to 2011-12, the 31-year-old's even-strength save percentage is right around .931. Make no mistake—that's amazing.

    Those teams that truly understand the underlying analytics are in a great position to acquire and sign a top-10 goalie at a more mediocre price.

7. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .930 (fourth)

    Relative to Partners: +.008

    True Talent: Between .918 and .942

    Quality Starts: 59.7 percent (13th)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: None

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $1.85 million 

    It's difficult to rank someone with only 76 games of NHL experience this high. Based on the limited amount of NHL data available, Braden Holtby's true talent could be anywhere from middling to elite. Likely, it is somewhere between .928 and .931, where he has finished every single time over parts of his four NHL seasons.

    The 24-year-old is putting together a strong case for being Team Canada's starting goalie at the upcoming Olympics in Sochi. His career .930 even-strength save percentage is bested only by Tuukka Rask, Tomas Vokoun and Roberto Luongo over that time range.

    Holtby also posts the same kind of save-percentage advantage over his backup and the same rate of quality starts as established top goalies like Antti Niemi and Ryan Miller. Holtby for Team Canada? They could do much worse.

6. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

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    Lance Thomson/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .926 (13th)

    Relative to Partners: +.008

    True Talent: Between .919 and .933 (ninth)

    Quality Starts: 60.1 percent (12th)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2013 Vezina Trophy finalist, 2010 Stanley Cup

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.8 million 

    After winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 with Chicago in his first NHL season, the undrafted Finn signed with the Sharks. Since then only Carey Price has started more games than Antti Niemi, though coach Todd McLellan recently dismissed claims that he is overworked, according to CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz. 

    Tired or not, Niemi has been strong and dependable for San Jose, posting even-strength save percentages between .926 and .931 in his three seasons with the team, and is sailing along at .925 so far this year at age 30.

    Finally recognized as a Vezina contender last year, there's very little question Niemi is a top-10 goalie.

5. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .928 (ninth)

    Relative to Partners: +.001

    True Talent: Between .918 and .938

    Quality Starts: 68.4 percent (third)

    Trend: Down

    Additional Credentials: 2011 William Jennings Trophy, 2009 AHL Goalie of the Year

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $4.0 million 

    "I think he's in the net now to stay," said 41-year-old goaltending legend Martin Brodeur of Cory Schneider October 23, according to Rich Chere of the Star Ledger (via Yahoo! Sports), though the future Hall of Famer has been stealing most of his starts lately.

    It's not always clear which goalie is the starter, but at age 27, time is certainly on Schneider's side. Acquired at the NHL entry draft for the ninth overall selection ultimately used on Bo Horvat, Schneider has been in fierce competition for the starting role, edging Brodeur in virtually every statistical category except the one that matters most to coach Peter DeBoer: wins.

    Brodeur started the season with five straight non-quality starts but has gone seven for nine since then. Schneider is five of 10 this year, despite coming into the year with one of the best quality-start percentages in the league.

    Schneider posted even-strength save percentages between .931 and .933 in his three seasons as Vancouver's backup but has dropped down to a more league-average .921 this year. This will have to improve if Schneider is to permanently tear the starting job out of the hands of one of the best goaltenders of all time.

4. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .929 (sixth)

    Relative to Partners: +.006

    True Talent: Between .922 and .935 (fifth)

    Quality Starts: 61.5 percent (eighth)

    Trend: Down

    Additional Credentials: 2011 Stanley Cup finalist, 2010 Olympic gold medal, 2007 Hart Trophy, Three-time Vezina Trophy finalist

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.33 million 

    There may have been a time when Roberto Luongo was the league's best goalie, but that window of time may have closed years ago.

    Still, Luongo had an exceptionally strong 2010-11 season, which was capped by an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Since then his save percentage has been dropping every year, and it has been merely average over the past two seasons (albeit in just 20 games each).

    With goaltending partner Cory Schneider dealt to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 NHL entry draft, the 34-year-old Luongo has become Vancouver's workhorse once again, leading the NHL in minutes played. Though not the goalie he once was, he likely still remains among the better ones, none of whom have anything near his career credentials.

3. Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .933 (second)

    Relative to Partners: +.007

    True Talent: Between .926 and .940 (second)

    Quality Starts: 64.1 percent (fourth)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2011 Vezina Trophy, 2009 Vezina Trophy, 2011 Stanley Cup, four All-Star games

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.75 million 

    While his overall numbers are almost incomparable, they were boosted by two absolutely dominant seasons in 2008-09 and 2010-11 when Tim Thomas led the league in both goals-against average and save percentage, winning the Vezina Trophy both seasons.

    Even if those two brilliant seasons are disregarded, Thomas is still a remarkably solid goalie, whose numbers match almost anyone's, including this season behind a young and often questionable Florida Panthers team.

    At first glance it may seem like taking a year off has affected the 39-year-old's numbers, but his even-strength save percentage of .923 is solid and pretty close to the .928 he posted his last year in Boston.

    All things considered it's awfully difficult to rank Thomas any lower than third when using analytics.

2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .929 (fifth)

    Relative to Partners: +.019 (second)

    True Talent: Between .923 and .935 (fourth)

    Quality Starts: 63.6 percent (fifth)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2012 Vezina Trophy, 2013 Vezina Trophy runner-up, three All-Star games, Olympic gold 2006

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.875 million (third) 

    Perhaps the safest pick for the league's best goalie is Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. King Henrik ranks in the top five in every statistical category and has done so consistently for about five seasons. Furthermore, his even-strength save percentage has improved five seasons in a row—good news for a 31-year-old about to become an unrestricted free agent.

    Originally drafted in the seventh round back in 2000, Lundqvist spent the next five seasons in the Swedish Elite League, dominating the league in his final three seasons. He's played for the Rangers ever since, initially as a highly capable starter and more recently as arguably the league's best.

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Even-Strength Save Percentage: .936 (first)

    Relative to Partners: +.005

    True Talent: Between .928 and .944 (first)

    Quality Starts: 69.7 percent (second)

    Trend: None

    Additional Credentials: 2013 Stanley Cup finalist

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $7.0 million (first) 

    In a trade Leafs fans love to be reminded of, Tuukka Rask was acquired by Boston from Toronto for Andrew Raycroft in the summer of 2006. Since then Rask has never posted an even-strength save percentage lower than a superb .925 and was at least .937 twice in the past four seasons. The 26-year-old Finn currently leads the league with an amazing .952 even-strength save percentage this year.

    Given the incredible success of predecessors like Tim Thomas, Manny Fernandez and even Alex Auld, one has to wonder if Rask's statistics might be boosted by Claude Julien's system and/or the fine defensive play of players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. After all, Rask's numbers were downright average during his two seasons with the AHL's Providence Bruins.

    Obviously, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli doesn't think so, making Rask the league's highest-paid goalie this offseason with a long-term deal worth $7.0 million per season. With absolutely incredible numbers across the entire board, it's awfully hard to disagree.

     

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.