There is a common denominator among almost every past Stanley Cup champion – elite goaltending.
The Lightning are coming off back-to-back Cup wins with Andrei Vasilesvkiy, one of the top goalies in the league, in net. The Blues had Jordan Binnington go on an absolute heater in 2019 on their way to a title. Braden Holtby had a sensational postseason in backing the Capitals to their Cup win in 2018.
The list of examples goes on and on. Goaltending is a major key to success come playoff time.
More terrific netminders are set to see postseason action in 2022. Will one of them lead their team to a Stanley Cup win? Buckle in and watch.
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Who are the top goaltenders in the 2022 NHL playoffs?
First, a pair of honorable mentions: Tristan Jarry and Jusse Saros were fringe candidates for this list but both are dealing with injuries.
Jarry has a broken bone in his foot and has been considered “week to week” by the Penguins staff. Pittsburgh will likely have to go with Casey DeSmith in the first round. Jarry was having an excellent bounce-back season after a horrid 2021 postseason; he ended the regular season sixth in the league with a 2.42 goals-against average and eighth with a .919 save percentage.
It was reported early in the final week of the regular season that Saros would miss the last two games with a lower-body injury. It was then reported that Saros is dealing with a high-ankle sprain that could potentially keep him out for four to six weeks. The injury is a huge blow to the Predators, who have relied heavily on their young goaltender. Saros led the league with 67 games played. He posted a 2.64 GAA and .918 save percentage.
On to the main list:
1. Igor Shesterkin, Rangers
Shesterkin, 26, was the best goaltender in the league this season from wire to wire. He has been the backbone of a young Rangers team that is looking to make noise in the playoffs.
He finished the regular season first in the league with a 2.07 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. His six shutouts were the third-most and his .679 winning percentage was the second-highest.
The Russian ended the season as the heavy favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, according to Sports Interaction, and likely will receive Hart Trophy votes as well. He has made just one playoff start in his career, but if he can continue to perform like he did in the regular season, the Rangers will be a dangerous team.
2. Frederik Andersen, Hurricanes
Andersen was everything the Canes wanted and more in his first year with Carolina.
The Dane finished the regular season second in the NHL with a 2.17 GAA, third with a .922 save percentage, third with 27.8 goals saved above expected, third with a .673 winning percentage, seventh with 35 wins and tied for sixth with four shutouts .
Andersen’s status heading into the playoffs is up in the air, however; he’s dealing with left leg injury he suffered in early April. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready for Game 1 of the first round, but it seems as though he is in a better position than Jarry or Saros to play in the postseason.
MORE: Which team has won the most Stanley Cups?
3. Jacob Markstrom, Flames
Calgary was one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season. A large part of the credit falls on Markstrom’s shoulders.
The Swede finished the regular season with a career-low 2.22 GAA, third-lowest in the league and lowest in the Western Conference. He tied a career best with a .922 save percentage, which was also third in the league and first in the West. He led the league with nine shutouts.
Between Markstrom and Dan Vladar, Calgary had one of the best goaltending duos this season, but Markstrom will be in the crease for the playoffs.
4. Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche
After losing Philip Grubauer in free agency in the offseason, the Avalanche traded for Kuemper to replace him. The move paid off.
Kuemper finished the regular season tied with Andersen for fifth with a .921 save percentage. He tied for fourth with 36 wins, was fifth with a .655 winning percentage and 12th with a 2.54 GAA.
The Avalanche have not advanced past the second round the last two postseasons. Kuemper is looking to help the team change that.
5. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning
Is it really possible that the 2021 Conn Smythe winner would not be on this list?
The decision was a lot closer than you’d think. Vasilevskiy’s stats were good, but not great. His 2.49 GAA ranked 10th and his .917 save percentage was tied for 10th. But he was tied for first with 39 wins and 28.4 goals saved above expected.
Vasilevskiy’s playoff history speaks for itself. In the Lightning’s two Cup runs, he had a 1.90 GAA in both years, a .927 save percentage in 2020 and a .937 save percentage in 2021. He recorded a shutout in all four series-clinching wins last year. He’s the guy you want in the crease in a Game 7.