And Then There Were Two…

18 03 2012

A hockey team is made up of 20 players:  eight wingers, six defensemen, four centers, and two goalies.  It’s not surprising that the forwards get the most attention, considering they’re the ones scoring most of the goals and making the fancy plays that hit the highlight reels every night on ESPN.  But, on any given night, a team could thrive or completely tank depending on the play of one person:  the goaltender.

These guys make me feel like I need to stretch every day, I mean really?!  They’re crazy flexible!  You think the goal can’t be that big, but when you have a puck coming at you at about 90 mph (or 108 mph if you’re Zdeno Chara, that friggin’ giraffe), your reflexes have to be crazy quick.  In my opinion, the thing the separates a good goaltender from a great goaltender is simple:  he’s not a sieve.  He’s big in the net, crazy quick, and gives his team a legitimate chance to win every game, no matter who the opponent is.  So, in honor of the smallest contingent of men in the NHL, we here at Hockey’s Finest present the Top 6 (because I couldn’t pick just 5) goaltenders of the 2011-2012 season.

6.  Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

I mean REALLY?!  Marian Gaborik is a dangerous shooter, and Smitty just closes the door.  Unreal.  But like I said before, a team is only as good as its goalie.  And Phoenix is absolutely not an exception to that rule.  When was the last time they were a legitimate threat going into the playoffs?  As of right now, they’re one point outside the race, sitting in 10th place in the West just behind San Jose.  But you had better believe that without Smith posting a .924 save percentage (tied with Kari Lehtonen and Pekka Rinne), they would be an afterthought sitting in the Western Conference basement.  The fact that they can be included in the playoff conversation, especially after their less-than-stellar play the last few season is remarkable, and Mike Smith deserves a huge hunk of the credit.

5.  Pekka Rinne, Nashville Pedators

Homeboy is ridonkulous.  He has to be one of the quickest goalies in the league, second only to Thomas the Tank Engine in Beantown (he’s got those short lil’ legs).  Rinne is truthfully the backbone of that Nashville team.  Yes, Shea Weber gets the bulk of the attention, but if you ask any NHL forward who they don’t like to see between the pipes on the other team, Rinne’s always in the conversation.  Plus, he has a sick name.  You can’t compete with that.

4.  Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Yet another very appropriate name.  He’s so speedy!  It’s hard for you as a player to look at the goal while you have the puck on your stick because, personally, I’d be thinking, “Oh $#!+, it’s JQ and I’m not gonna score, am I?”  NOPE.  He’s a wall.  Thankfully he gets the recognition he deserves, because even when the Kings hit the skids, Quick is always on the positive side of the conversation.  Great player.

3.  Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

I know some of you might be wondering why I put Thomas so high on this list, and it’s a valid question.  To me, Thomas is an elite goaltender.  Boston sports fans put their athletes on this pedestal of a God-like status, and Thomas has been up there for quite some time.  Yes, his save percentage is nowhere near where it was last year.  However, that stat was truly unreal, and I’m surprised he bounced back this well after the year the Bruins had and the short summer.  Plus, he’s just a solid dude.  I has a soft spot for Timmay, what can I say?

2.  Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues

Talk about a dark horse team.  If you had asked any pundit out there what team would be the first o reach 100 points the year, very few if any at all, would have pegged the Blues for that distinction.  I put both of their goalies together because they’ve split the season almost down the middle and, truthfully, are one of the best tandems in the league (Thomas/Rask in Boston are the other).  Every night, no matter who seems to be between the pipes, St. Louis is solid as a brick wall back there.  They’re just nuts, I can’t even stand it.

1.  Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Oh, Hank.  You’re so dreeeeaaammmyyyyy :) *AHEM* I mean, he’s very talented…..whatever, we all know Henrik is gorg, and then there’s the flow….is it hot in here?  Okay I’m done.  But on the serious, folks, isn’t it always the pretty ones that end up being the most talented?  I like to call it Taylor Swift syndrome:  They’re pretty, they’re nice, they’re talented, and you want to hate them on principle, but you CAN’T.  BECAUSE THEY’RE SO DARN NICE.  And Lundqvist has got to be one of the most humble, nice guys in the league, and to go along with how clutch he is every single night for the Rangers is simply remarkable.  I can’t even fathom putting someone else at the top of this list, even though they’ve hit a bit of a slump lately, but he’s just too good.  Even in the clip above, the Rangers were down by 2 with 8 minutes left in the 3rd period, and he just keeps fighting.  He’s a dirty goalie, in the best way possible.  Now if only I can find a way to just touch the hair and not get arrested…..ideas?

What do you guys think?  Did we leave anyone out?  Let us know in the comments!

-M

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