This article has two different sides to it. First, I wanted to talk about which goalies are left in the Stanley Cup playoffs as it is really fascinating and I don’t believe anyone would’ve predicted it. Second, from an international perspective, I wanted to talk about where the best goaltenders are coming from today (or, perhaps, where they don’t come from right now).
Playoff goalies so far
Round 1 had 16 teams competing and ended up with 24 goalies getting some ice time. For the most part, the starters were obvious for each team. Only a few teams wavered from their starters a little. It could be argued that all the best goalies were eliminated by lesser known goalies. For example, the elite Russian trio of Igor Shesterkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Ilya Sorokin were all eliminated. Most likely Vezina winner, Linus Ullmark, was on the bench by Game 7, while recent Vezina winner, Connor Hellebuyck, was also eliminated. Future Hall of Famer Marc Andre Fleury had a postseason to forget.
Subsequently, eight goalies moved onto Round 2. This is not a group anyone would’ve predicted even a month ago. Only a handful were starters a year ago; some even weren’t starters this year. Of them, only Jake Oettinger projects as a legit number one today. He is probably the best goalie left in the playoffs. After the elimination of the President’s Trophy Winning Boston Bruins and defending Stanley Cup Champs Colorado Avalanche, it is fair to say that the playoffs are wide open and it is anyone’s Cup for the taking.
This seasons playoffs debunks the notion of needing a legit 1G type goalie who will play at least 50 games.
As an example, Vitek Vanecek played 52 games with very solid numbers. He may not see the ice again. Stuart Skinner was sub .900 in Round 1. He will now be facing former Oiler backup goalie, Laurent Brossoit, who is best described as a journeyman type goalie. Akira Schmid was lights out but was New Jersey’s third goalie for large chunks this year. Ilya Samsonov was signed for a cheap one-year “show me” type deal. On the other end you have Sergei Bobrovsky with one of the worst contracts in the NHL. Is this an anomaly or a future trend?
- Oettinger USA ($4M)
- Grubauer GER ($5.9M)
- Schmid SUI ($0.925M)
- Skinner CAN ($0.750M)
- Bobrovsky RUS ($10M)
- Samsonov RUS ($1.8M)
- Brossoit CAN ($2.3M)
- Raanta FIN ($2M)
Are goalies a good investment in a cap world?
A very popular expression online about goalies is that they are “voodoo.” Basically, you’re not sure how they will develop or perform. Is it worth paying $10M for a starting goalie in 2023? Or is it better to focus that valuable cap space on defencemen and forwards, and get a “platoon” goalie situation?
For example, the Avalanche won with decent goaltending last year but certainly not elite goaltending. Internationally, Canada does very well with average goalies, and elite defencemen and forwards. This year’s winner looks to also not have a Vezina winner (or nominee) in the net.
Where do goalies come from in 2023?
Of the 24 goalies that played in Round 1, here is a nationality breakdown:
- USA 7
- Russia 6
- Canada 3
- Sweden 2
- Finland 2
- Germany 1
- Czechia 1
- Switzerland 1
- Denmark 1
Round 2 has one American, one German, one Swiss, two Canadians, two Russian, and one Finn.
The thing that really stands out to me: where is Canada? They are a long way from the Quebec Goalie Factory dominating the goalie scene in the 1990s. There are two Canadians left and they actually play each other in Round 2. Three out of 24 in Round 1 is a very small representation of the greatest hockey nation on earth. Two of those goalies were under .900.
The upcoming draft is also interesting to see as here are the Top 10 goalies in North America.
I’ve highlighted the Canadian goalies—only two out of ten in the North American Rankings. Three Czechs made the list and one Slovak. The rest are Americans who seem to be right there with Russia in producing elite goalies right now. It’d be hard to argue Canada is not the best in hockey. They’ve won the last three best-on-bests and back-to-back World Junior Championships. While Canada keeps producing elite forwards (eg. Connor McDavid and Connor Bedard) and defencemen (Cale Makar), they are starting to fall far behind in goaltender development. This may be the lowest point in Canadian goaltending history.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire