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National Hockey League’s 10 Best Goaltenders

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Jonathan Quick & the NHL's 10 best netminders

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

There is no more difficult position to play in professional sports than starting goaltender for a team in the National Hockey League. They often get saddled with too much of the blame in a loss, and sometimes too much credit in a win. The pressure is sky-high, especially in a big market. Just ask Roberto Luongo.

We’ve seen some goaltenders rise and fall. Some show flashes of brilliance only to falter in the next season or two. Look at goaltenders like Steve Mason or Corey Crawford for evidence of that.

Some goaltenders don’t have the proper team in front of them. You could throw Crawford’s name in there, but someone like Carey Price or Ryan Miller is an example of a goaltender who would post better numbers if he had a better squad in front of him.

One name who may be on this list next year, but didn’t make the cut this time was Cory Schneider. We’ve only seen him in small doses, but it looks like he’ll be taking over for Roberto Luongo in the very near future. If the small sample space is any indication, he’s a future star. Another omission was Martin Brodeur, who had a great playoff run, but really struggled and showed his age during the regular season.

The following goaltenders are the ones I consider to be the league’s 10 best. Interestingly enough, only three of them have won Stanley Cup titles. But if the others continue what they’re doing, and their respective teams continue to build, then we may see them hoist their own cup at some point in the future.

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No. 10: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes

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James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

This is a spot that could have featured a few different folks. There really is no clear-cut no. 10. Cam Ward had a really bad year last season. But he's primed for a bounce back campaign. The team in front of him is quite improved and he's healthy. He should be much higher on this list by the time the year is over.

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No. 9: Kari Lehtonen - Dallas Stars

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Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Kari Lehtonen is easily one of the most underrated players in the league, and the most under-appreciated netminder. His numbers are all come in high enough to consider him a top 10 guy. But his health and his market have held him back from getting the proper recognition. A possible playoff run from the Dallas Stars this season could help his game reach a more national audience.

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No. 8: Miikka Kiprusoff - Calgary Flames

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Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

The plight of the Calgary Flames hasn't slowed down Miikka Kiprusoff much. He's had his struggles, but his numbers are still among the league's best. That's pretty impressive when you consider the mess of a team that Jay Feaster has iced in front of him.

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No. 7: Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins

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Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

If it weren't for his playoff struggles, Marc-Andre Fleury might be up higher on this list. Fleury has been one of the top regular season goaltenders in each of the past few seasons. His playoff performances, however, haven't been quite so strong. His play was a major reason the Pittsburgh Penguins were bounced in the first round back in the spring. Tomas Vokoun should help to provide a nice wake-up call for him.

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No. 6: Mike Smith - Phoenix Coyotes

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Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Smith really came out of nowhere for the Phoenix Coyotes this season. He was their rock all year, putting up numbers worthy of a Vezina Trophy candidate. The question for him will be whether or not he can do it again. Given the system he plays in and the defensive depth in front, the answer is probably yes. If that's the case, look for him to move up well into the top five.

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No. 5: Jimmy Howard - Detroit Red Wings

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Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

After he followed up a strong rookie season with an inconsistent sophomore campaign, Jimmy Howard put it all together in 2011-2012. He was a top five netminder overall, finishing with the third best GAA among goaltenders who had at least 50 starts. He should be gearing up to head into the prime of his career.

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No. 4: Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliot - St. Louis Blues

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Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

The St. Louis Blues were the best defensive team in the league last season. Everyone had trouble scoring on them in the regular season. The reason for that is the incredible duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot. Halak had signed a big contract to come to St. Louis and Elliot sort of revived his career with the Blues and pushed Halak for playing time. You really couldn't go wrong with either of these guys in your net right now.

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No. 3: Pekka Rinne - Nashville Predators

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Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

There aren't enough good things you can say about Pekka Rinne. The way they play hockey down there in Nashville needs a strong goaltender, since we know their game isn't predicated around offense. Rinne is one of the game's best, as evident by his Vezina candidacy last year. He struggled in the playoffs, but as long as he has Shea Weber playing in front of him, he should continue to star.

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No. 2: Henrik Lundqvist - New York Rangers

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Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

There's a reason that Henrik Lundqvist was a finalist for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies last season. He's one of the best at what he does. He hasn't been as sharp in the playoffs, which likely holds him back from being no. 1 on this list, but he posted unbelievable numbers last season. With Rick Nash now joining the club down on Broadway, some of the pressure is likely off of Hank. Could that mean big things for the Blueshirts?

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No. 1: Jonathan Quick - Los Angeles Kings

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Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

This is an easy call at the top spot. Jonathan Quick was the league's best netminder last season, helping the Los Angeles Kings to become the second best defensive team in the league. He carried the team for stretches, stealing games that likely would have lost them a playoff berth had he faltered. He won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP and was a Vezina finalist. Oh yeah, the Kings won the Stanley Cup too.