Some Goalies Have Been Big in the NHL News Lately But There Are a Few Goaltenders Who Have Had Surprise Standouts So Far This Season. These Goaltenders Have Earned Themselves a Space on the List of the Biggest NHL Goalie Surprises of 2016-17.
Hello, hockey internet!
My name’s Lachlan “Lach in the Crease” Irvine, and I’m brand new here at Puck Prose. I’m a Canucks blogger and YouTuber by morning, adult league goaltender by night, and with my new contributor role here, I’ve found a way to fill my afternoons too.
Since I’m a goalie myself, I thought the best place to start was in my own end of the ice by discussing the five hottest goalies in the NHL. Whether they’ve made their team look like a Stanley Cup contender, or simply kept a struggling team afloat, these five netminders have surprised the league with their incredible start to the season.
Biggest NHL Goalie Surprises of 2016-17
Devan Dubnyk – Minnesota Wild
It’s pretty safe to say that Devan Dubnyk’s stellar play for the Minnesota Wild has not only made him one of the NHL’s biggest surprises in 2016-17 but has already put him at the top of the list for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie.
It was just three seasons ago that Dubnyk was traded to the Wild by the Arizona Coyotes, marking his fifth organization move in just two years. But today, Dubnyk owns an impressive 15-6-3 record and sits atop the NHL in both save percentage with .947 and shutouts with four. Dubnyk’s dominance has been a key reason for the Wild’s 18-8-4 record and 40 points, which puts them one point ahead of St. Louis for second in the Central Division with two games in hand on the Blues.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets
At the beginning of the season, there were numerous questions surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets, and one of the biggest was whether Sergei Bobrovsky could bounce back from a disappointing 2015-16 campaign.
Bobrovsky has more than proved the skeptics wrong by posting a .935 save percentage and topping the NHL in wins with 18. Bob’s great start in 2016-17 has helped lead the Jackets to a 19-5-4 record and 42 points, putting them in third place in the Metropolitan Division. But most importantly, Bobrovsky has resurged back into the form that earned him the Vezina Trophy in 2013 and put the Blue Jackets in the playoffs in 2014. If he continues to play at this level, Columbus can not only make the playoffs but even shock some teams in the early rounds.
Antti Raanta – New York Rangers
Ask anyone in New York who the Rangers starting goalie is, and the unanimous answer will be Henrik Lundqvist. But New York backup Antti Raanta has been making a solid case for more ice time lately, putting up an 8-2-0 record and the league’s second-best save percentage with .941. Raanta’s play even led Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault to leave Lundqvist on the bench for four straight games, the most the King has sat in his career without being injured.
While having two starting caliber goalies on a Vigneault-coached team has proved troublesome in the past, so far the Rangers have benefited greatly from the tandem. New York’s 21-10-1 record and 43 points put them just one point behind Pittsburgh and Chicago for the top spot in the NHL, and if the Rangers believe that Raanta is the man that’ll push them over the final hurdle, they’ll keep playing him.
Chad Johnson – Calgary Flames
When the Calgary Flames acquired Brian Elliott from St. Louis, it was everyone’s belief that he would finally bring stability to the Calgary net that had been missing for some time. But when Elliott stumbled out of the gate, Flames coach Glen Gulutzan handed the ball to backup Chad Johnson, and so far he has run with it.
In 20 starts, Johnson has put together an impressive 13-6-1 record and a .924 save percentage. Johnson has been a major reason for the Flames turnaround from a basement dweller into serious playoff contender; Calgary’s 16-15-2 record and 34 points leaves them tied with the LA Kings for the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. While it’s likely that Elliott will break his personal slump soon, Flames fans will take comfort in knowing Johnson has the ability to take on a starting role if called upon.
Mike Smith – Arizona Coyotes
Out of all the goalies on this list, none have as large an uphill battle as Mike Smith. With the Arizona Coyotes in the middle of a large youth movement, Smith has been subjected to a barrage of shots every game. In just 17 starts, Smith’s taken 599 shots against and still put together a .930 save percentage. He even stopped a franchise-record 58 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets on December 3rd.
While Smith’s 7-5-4 record isn’t nearly as impressive, that stat is far more indicative of the developing defensive core in front of him. Smith has undoubtedly become one of the league’s most underrated netminders and brings long term stability to the Arizona net.
The Coyotes may have a long road back to success ahead of them, but Smith’s talent could bring the winning ways back to the desert a whole lot faster.