Which goalie would you turn to in the clutch -- Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick or Pekka Rinne?

Friday, March 9, 2018

If you had to pick one current goalie to win a game, who would it be?[/h2][br /][b]Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter:[/b] Maybe it's because I've spent a lot of time over the past month [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/22371354/nhl-how-long-take-new-york-rangers-become-legitimate-stanley-cup-contenders-again" ]pitying him[/url], but I'm going with The King: [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/3081/henrik-lundqvist" ]Henrik Lundqvist[/url]. I know he is 36. I understand his best hockey might be behind him. And eventually I'll get over the fact that his team is [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/22623851/nhl-weekly-reader-henrik-lundqvist-thoughts-new-york-rangers-rebuild-jersey-fouls-ticket-insurance-puck-headlines-more" ]rebuilding while he's still in his personal Stanley Cup window[/url]. He may never raise Lord Stanley, despite nearly a decade of coming close. But if it's a big game, there's nobody I'd trust more.[br /][Ads /][br /]Perhaps no goalie has been better in playoff crunch time than Lundqvist. And I'm not even including his remarkable runs with Team Sweden to win gold at the 2006 Olympics and the 2017 World Championships. His 55 NHL playoff wins in the past 10 years trail only[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/2346/marc-andre-fleury" ]Marc-Andre Fleury[/url]'s 61. And Lundqvist gets better when the stakes are high. Since 2006, the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/nyr/new-york-rangers" ]New York Rangers[/url] are 6-2 in Game 7s, the most Game 7 wins of any team during that stretch.[br /][br /]The only other goalie who might have a case in the post-lockout span is [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/3634/jonathan-quick" ]Jonathan Quick[/url].[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/108/martin-brodeur" ]Martin Brodeur[/url]has allowed four goals twice in a Game 7. Even [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/804/patrick-roy" ]Patrick Roy[/url], who has played in 13 career Game 7s, has given up three or more goals on six occasions, including six in a 7-0 blanking by the[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/det/detroit-red-wings" ]Detroit Red Wings[/url]in the 2002 Western Conference finals.[br /][br /]So yeah, maybe he won't be wearing a Rangers jersey in this hypothetical, but if there's a win-or-go-home scenario, I'm going with the King and not looking back.[br /][br /][b]Ben Arledge, NHL Insider editor:[/b] It's still Lundqvist for me, as well. He's been downright dominant in the biggest spots, and his lack of a ring hardly reflects on his own play. In fact, he's the main reason the Rangers have gone as far as they have in recent playoff seasons. We can all agree Game 7 is a good spot to look when considering must-win games. According to Hockey Reference, Lundqvist boasts an absurd 1.11 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in his eight career Game 7 contests. He's not coasting behind a juggernaut, either. Since the 2008 playoffs, Lundqvist leads all goalies who have played at least 35 playoff games with a stellar .835 high-danger save percentage (via [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://corsica.hockey" ]Corsica Hockey[/url]). That's outstanding. I don't care how old he is or that he isn't the same goalie he was three or four seasons ago. He's my guy here.[br /][br /]The guy who I might consider otherwise doesn't have the big-game resume of King Henrik, but he is sure lighting the league on fire this season.[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/2976847/andrei-vasilevskiy" ]Andrei Vasilevskiy[/url]is just 23 years old and this is his first full season as the No. 1 goalie for the[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/tb/tampa-bay-lightning" ]Tampa Bay Lightning[/url].The kid has the goods, however. He'll likely win the Vezina Trophy this season, making him the youngest to do so in more than 20 years ([url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/4465/jim-carey" ]Jim Carey[/url]was 21 when he won in 1995-96). Vasilevskiy's success isn't a fluke; he has a ton of talent and mental toughness. He has played to a .925 save percentage this season -- which, incidentally, equals the number he posted in eight playoff appearances in the 2016 playoffs (in six starts). Just because he is young and relatively untested doesn't mean I would shy away from tapping the young Russian on the shoulder for a big-game start.[br /][br /][b]Greg Wyshynski, senior writer:[/b] Jonathan Quick doesn't always impress you in the regular season, despite being a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist. His .916 career save percentage ranks him 12th among active goalies. The [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/la/los-angeles-kings" ]Los Angeles Kings[/url] netminder is more than capable of winning games on his own -- witness his 47 career shutouts -- but he's also capable of being ordinary before the playoffs start.[br /][Ads /][br /]But once the postseason begins ... there isn't another goalie I'd want out there to win me one game.[br /][br /]Quick is money in the playoffs, with a .921 save percentage in 81 games, earning his name on the Stanley Cup twice. As Emily notes, he's 4-0 in Game 7s and has a stellar .940 save percentage in those win-or-go-home games.[br /][br /]What I want from a goalie in a single-game situation isn't necessarily the most fundamentally sound netminder. What I want is a goalie who could carry my team to victory, one who can be the best player on the ice in a victory and one who can render my opponents' best efforts pointless if he's on in that game.[br /][br /]For my money, that goalie is Jonathan Quick.[br /][br /][b]Chris Peters, NHL prospects writer:[/b] There are a lot of good options, but I'm a big believer in the "hot hand" -- especially when it comes to postseason play. Right now, that goalie for me is [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/3157/pekka-rinne" ]Pekka Rinne[/url]. He was excellent in the playoffs last year in leading the [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/nsh/nashville-predators" ]Nashville Predators[/url] to the Stanley Cup Final, and he has been even better this season. It's true that Rinne has the NHL's best defense in front of him, which is fair, but he still saw quite a few pucks last postseason and still put up a .930 save percentage.[br /][br /]Now he's in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career, and it's not just the numbers that look good. On top of being gigantic (6-foot-5), he's still moving as well as any of the NHL's top goaltenders. Rinne got so close last year, so he has plenty of motivation.[br /][Ads /][br /]I also gave strong consideration to Vasilevskiy,who I've been watching for years, even before he was in the NHL. I've seen him win a lot of big games in international tournaments, but he only has 12 NHL playoff NHL games under his belt. I'd need a little more of a book on him in the biggest games at this level. So I'll stick with Rinne right now.[br /][br /][b]Victoria Matiash, fantasy writer:[/b] Chalk up another vote for the Predators' franchise netminder. As Chris suggests, Rinne is enjoying one of his best campaigns ever, near top of the goaltending table among regulars in wins and individual stats. Having lost only three games in regulation since New Year's only adds to the 35-year-old's appeal in running hot [i]right now[/i]. As for thriving in clutch situations, credit Nashville's superior defense all you like, but Rinne merits his own due for sitting second only to Columbus' [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/5571/sergei-bobrovsky" ]Sergei Bobrovsky[/url] with an 85.57 high-danger save percentage among netminders with more than 30 games.[br /][br /]Then there's next-up-to-bat [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/3042109/juuse-saros" ]Juuse Saros[/url] breathing down his net. Rinne still has another year left on his deal, and many are already heralding Saros as Nashville's heir apparent. How's that for sizzling incentive, in not only proving that there's still gas in the tank, but enough to cross the finish line for the first time? Especially after coming so very close through superb postseason play just a year ago.[br /][br /]Plus the guy wins games -- we want a winner, right? After joining the 300 club just recently, Rinne is up to 306 victories and counting through 547 regular-season starts. That makes for an impressive ratio.[br /][br /]If I'm an NHL player -- next lifetime, maybe -- this is the last guy I want staring out from the opposition's crease under the current circumstances.