Outside of quarterback in the NFL, no position in sports is more important or faces more pressure than an NHL starting goaltender.
It's a difficult position to play both physically and mentally, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here's a look at the top 10 goaltenders in the league entering the 2021-22 season (Tuukka Rask was not considered for this list because he's not signed to a team right now). All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick.
10) John Gibson, Ducks
2020-21 Stats: 9-19-7, .903 SV%, 2.98 GAA
Gibson is a very good goalie who plays on a really bad team. Only three goaltenders faced more high-danger shot attempts than Gibson last season, which highlights how many quality chances the Ducks give up. Gibson had a .750 save percentage on those shot attempts, which isn't bad at all. Gibson should absolutely be one of the netminders selected by Team USA for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
9) Robin Lehner, Golden Knights
2020-21 Stats: 13-4-2, .913 SV%, 2.29 GAA
After splitting time with Marc-Andre Fleury over the last two seasons, Lehner is now the undisputed No. 1 goalie in Vegas. One area where Lehner shines is the penalty kill. He posted 3.89 goals saved above average (seventh-best in the league) and stopped 16 of the 18 high-danger attempts sent his way on the penalty kill last season. We should expect Lehner to play 40-plus games for the first time since 2018-19.
8) Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche
2020-21 Stats: 10-11-3, .907 SV%, 2.56 GAA
After losing Philipp Grubauer in free agency, the Avalanche paid a steep price -- a 2022 first-rounder, a 2024 third-rounder and defenseman Conor Timmins -- to acquire Kuemper from the Coyotes via trade. Kuemper had a bit of a down year in 2020-21, but he'll benefit by going from a non-playoff team in the Coyotes to one of the very best teams in the Avalanche. Colorado has an excellent blue line and won't give up a ton of A-plus scoring chances. Kuemper just needs to be reliable for Colorado to make a deep playoff run, and he's more than capable of doing that.
7) Carey Price, Canadiens
2020-21 Stats: 12-7-5, .901 SV%, 2.64 GAA
Price has not posted a save percentage of .918 or better in each of the last four seasons. However, his playoff performance has been elite. Price had a .936 save percentage in 10 playoff games in 2020, and then basically carried the Canadiens to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final with a .926 save percentage over 22 games. He's 34 years old and his best days likely are behind him, but Price remains a tough goalie to beat on most nights.
6) Philipp Grubauer, Kraken
2020-21 Stats: 30-9-1, .922 SV%, 1.95 GAA
Grubauer was one of the Kraken's most notable offseason acquisitions, signing a 6-year, $35.4 million contract in free agency after being a 2021 Vezina Trophy finalist.
He was the league's best goalie on the penalty kill last season, leading all players with a .909 save percentage and 8.34 goals saved above average. He also stopped 44 of the 48 high-danger shot attempts sent his way in PK situations.
Grubauer was a consistently excellent goalie for the Avalanche, but he also benefitted from playing behind one of the league's best defensive teams. The Kraken won't be as good defensively as the Avalanche, so there will be more pressure on Grubauer to steal games this season.
5) Juuse Saros, Predators
2020-21 Stats: 21-11-1, .927 SV%, 2.28 GAA
Saros literally saved the Predators' season in 2020-21, lifting them from likely trade deadline sellers to a playoff team in the Central Division. From Feb. 27 through the regular season finale on May 8, Saros ranked No. 1 among all goalies in save percentage (.941) and No. 3 in GAA (1.88). His 27.17 goals saved above average during that span was almost two times the next-highest goalie. Simply put, he was flat out dominant. If the Predators are going to contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference this season, they'll need another Vezina-caliber campaign from Saros.
4) Semyon Varlamov, Islanders
2020-21 Stats: 19-11-4, .929 SV%, 2.04 GAA
Varlamov easily could've been a Vezina finalist last season after leading the league in save percentage and finishing third in GAA. He also led the league with 21.01 goals saved above average and ranked No. 3 in high-danger save percentage among goalies with 30-plus games played. The Islanders are facing Stanley Cup expectations entering the 2021-22 campaign, and Varlamov is a huge reason for that.
3) Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks
2020-21 Stats: 26-10-0, .928 SV%, 1.99 GAA
Fleury won the Vezina Trophy last season and was traded to the Blackhawks over the summer. You don't often see goalies of Fleury's caliber traded, but Vegas needed salary cap relief and moved the 36-year-old veteran's $7 million cap hit. Fleury ranked No. 2 in the league in both save percentage and GAA among goalies with 25-plus games played in 2020-21. The Blackhawks, after finishing sixth in the Central Division last year, are hoping to be back in the playoffs next season after trading for Fleury and top-pairing defenseman Seth Jones.
2) Connor Hellebuyck, Jets
2020-21 Stats: 24-17-3, .916 SV%, 2.58 GAA
Hellebuyck posted solid numbers last season, especially when you consider the Jets' defense was often average (or worse) and he faced the most shots (1,335) of any goalie in the league. He faced 50 more high-danger shot attempts (398 overall) than the goalie with the second-most. The 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner ranked No. 9 in the league with 11.04 goals saved above average as well. Hellebuyck's 45 games played also led the league. It's pretty impressive that Hellebuyck is able to play at such a high level on a consistent basis despite a heavy workload and having to face a lot of shots.
1) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning
2020-21 Stats: 31-10-1, .925 SV%, 2.21 GAA
Vasilevskiy is without question the best goalie in the world. He ranked fourth in save percentage, fifth in GAA, second in goals saved above average (20.82) and third in high-danger save percentage (.850) while facing the second-most shots (1,282) of any netminder. Vasilevskiy was dominant in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, posting a .937 save percentage with five shutouts (including Game 7 of the semifinal) en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The Lightning won their second consecutive Stanley Cup as a result.