Goalies playing to the top of their abilities have helped carry teams to greatness; Jonathan Quick of the champion Los Angeles Kings in 2012, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins in 2011; and Cam Ward, who helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Those are also the past three goalies to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. The trophy has been awarded to a goalie 16 times, the second-most by position behind center (19).
But there have been several Cup favorites who have had their postseasons end early, in part because their goalie struggled. The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning went 62-16-4 with 128 points, second all-time to the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (131 points), but Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 15 goals with a .856 save percentage in a four-game sweep to the Columbus Blues Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round.
Last season, Vasilevskiy led the Lightning to their second championship, going 18-7 in the postseason with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
That performance, plus his play this season, is a big reason he sits atop NHL.com’s Stanley Cup Playoffs goalie power rankings. The playoffs start Saturday.
To create the NHL.com goalie power rankings, 13 staff writers ranked his or her top 16 goalies. Any goalie on the postseason roster of a playoff team was eligible and voters could vote for more than one goalie per team. Votes were submitted and a point total was assigned to each.
The goalie that was selected first was given 16 points, second got 15, third 14 and so on down to No. 16, who got one point.
Here are the Stanley Cup Playoffs goalie power rankings:
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (31-10-1, 2.21 goals-against average, .925 save percentage)
Total points: 208
He’s been lights out this season and is in the driver’s seat in the race for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best goalie. His play last postseason is fresh in the mind of the voters, who unanimously voted him the best goalie entering the playoffs this season.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (26-10-0, 1.98, .928)
Total points: 191
There are questions about what the Golden Knights will do with their goaltending — Fleury and Robin Lehner have alternated starts since March 29. But there is no question that this is among the best seasons the 36-year-old has had in his NHL career, which includes winning the Stanley Cup three times (2009, 2016, 2017) with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (23-17-3, 2.60, .915)
Total points: 162
Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy last season and has not had quite as dominant a season. But there are few goalies better equipped to handle the rigors of a long postseason run. He thrives on a heavy workload. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Hellebuyck has played in 288 of 372 regular-season games (77 percent), the most in the NHL.
4. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche (30-9-1, 1.95, .922)
Total points: 157
He had 30 of Colorado’s 39 regular-season wins. Since returning from injury on April 30, Grubauer is 5-1-0 with a .935 save percentage and appears to be peaking at the right time.
5. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (19-11-4, 2.04, .929)
Total points: 156
He is tied with Grubauer for the NHL lead in shutouts (seven) and is averaging one every five games. His .929 save percentage is second in the NHL among goalies that have played at least 15 games behind Alex Nedeljkovic of the Carolina Hurricanes (.932).
6. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (15-5-2, 2.28, .913)
Total points: 144
Since returning to lineup on April 15 after being out three weeks because of an upper-body injury, Rask is 7-1-0 in nine starts with a .923 save percentage and 2.07 GAA. He has played 93 postseason games and has .926 save percentage, which is tied with Braden Holtby for the best among active NHL goalies who have played at least 50 postseason games.
7. Robin Lehner, Golden Knights (13-4-2, 2.29, .913)
Total points: 108
Sixteen of his 26 postseason games in the NHL came last season when he went 9-7 with a 1.99 GAA and .917 save percentage to help the Golden Knights reach the Western Conference Final, where they lost to the Dallas Stars in five games. Lehner has won seven of his past 10 starts, but the three losses have come in his past five games.
8. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators (21-11-1, 2.28, .927)
Total points: 92
Since March 13, Saros is 16-6-1 with a 1.90 GAA and .941 save percentage. In that span, he is tied with Grubauer in wins and among goalies with at least 15 starts, he has the best save percentage.
9. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (17-14-8, 2.64, .911)
Total points: 79
Binnington is two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup in one of the best Cinderella stories in the sport. But he was far less effective last season when the Blues were upset by the Vancouver Canucks in six games in the Western Conference First Round. Binnington lost all three of his starts, and was 0-5 with a 4.72 GAA and .851 save percentage in the postseason.
10. Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (21-6-2, 2.31, .923)
Total points: 75
Smith has played in six playoffs games since a 16-game run with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2012. He played one postseason game last season with the Oilers, allowing five goals on 23 shots to the Chicago Blackhawks in less than two periods of a 6-4 loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Edmonton’s current backup Mikko Koskinen played the final three games of the series.
11 (tie). Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (19-8-2, 2.91, .906)
Total points: 60
The good news is Bobrovsky was statistically better this season than he was last season (3.23, .900) when he went 23-19-6. The bad news is that Bobrovsky has been to the postseason seven times and his team has advanced past the first round once, in the Blue Jackets’ 2019 upset of the Lightning. Bobrovsky is 12-21 with a .3.13 GAA and a .902 save percentage in 38 playoff games.
11 (tie). Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (12-7-5, 2.64, .901)
Total points: 60
Price hasn’t played since sustaining a concussion against the Oilers on April 19 but is skating with the Canadiens. Last postseason, he helped the Canadiens upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the best-of-5 qualifying round, allowing seven goals in four games. The Canadiens lost in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference First Round, but Price finished the playoffs with a 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage.
13. Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (19-8-5, 2.63, .915)
Total points: 55
Signed as a free agent on Oct. 9, 2020, Talbot has been one of the focal points of the Wild’s renaissance this season. But the 33-year-old has hit a bit of a rough patch, allowing three or more goals in each of his past six starts.
14. Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes (6-2-3, 2.06, .923)
Total Points: 49
Mrazek injured his thumb in his fourth start and missed more than two months. He returned for five games before sustaining a lower-body injury on April 19 and didn’t return until May 4. He is 1-1-1 in his three games since returning, allowing 10 goals on 84 shots.
15. Alex Nedeljkovic, Carolina Hurricanes (15-5-3, 1.90, .932)
Total points: 45
He had the best save percentage among goalies to start at least 15 games this season. Nedeljkovic won the Calder Cup with Charlotte of the American Hockey League in 2019. He has never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but could be the Game 1 starter. Since Feb. 20, Nedeljkovic has allowed two or fewer goals 16 times in 20 games.
16. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (25-9-3, 2.75, .909)
Total points: 43
The 26-year-old has won 45 games in 69 regular-season starts over the past two seasons but has one game of playoff experience. He made 20 saves on 21 shots in a 2-0 loss to the Canadiens in Game 4 of the qualifying round.
Others receiving points: Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 24; Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs, 20 points; Chris Driedger, Panthers, 19; Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals, 13 points; Jake Allen, Canadiens, 4; Ilya Sorokin, Islanders, 2; Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild, 1; Jeremy Swayman, Bruins, 1