Monday, November 26, 2007

A Slightly Shocking Best Goalie

I had been calling Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets the best goalie in the league so far this season. I think it is time to re-address that position. Leclaire continues to play well. He has the third best goals against average (1.87) and third best saves percentage (.932) in the league. This is very good, but it's no longer the best in the league. My new pick for best goalie in the NHL so far this year is Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.

Tim Thomas is not a player I would have considered before this season. He is not on the NHL All Star Game ballot. When the lockout came in 2004, Tim Thomas was a minor league goalie with four career NHL games. He turned 30 in 2004 and it looked like he would not have an NHL career. He spent the lockout year playing in Finland and had a very good season. As a result, the Boston Bruins signed him as an extra goalie. In 2005/06, they expected Andrew Raycroft would be their number one goalie, but it turned out that Thomas played very well and played more games than any other Boston goalie. In 2006/07, they expected Hannu Toivonen would be their number one goalie, but it turned out Thomas played very well and played more games than any other Boston goalie. This season, it was expected that Manny Fernandez would be the Bruins number one goalie, but Tim Thomas is outplaying him and should play far more games this year. Tim Thomas has a wonderful .941 saves percentage that leads the league. He is doing this behind a poor Boston defence that is third worst in shots allowed per game. If the season ended right now, Boston's 11-10 (with two losses counted as regulation ties) record would give them seventh seed in the East Conference. The biggest reason for that is Tim Thomas's play. In order for Boston to make playoffs, Thomas will likely have to keep it up all season long.

My vote is for Lundqvist. His stats are every bit as good as Thomas's but he has 4 shutouts to Thomas's 0 and has played nearly 40% more minutes. The fact he plays every game gives him the edge over Thomas and Leclaire.
Shutouts are an awful stat to gage how good a goalie is. The Rangers have a far better defence than Boston and allow less shotss and less scoring chances. That is why Lunqvist has a better number of shutouts.

Though Lundqvist may play more games than Thomas, Tim Thomas has only 12 less shots faced this season. That an argument that they have done nearly the same amount of work - despite Lundqvist playing more games.
I agree - Tim Thomas is pretty impressive. Let's see if he lasts the season though - even spectacular goalies can only hold their teams in for so long, and in the worst-case scenario, they could burn out doing it.
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