September is upon us, which means the 2015-16 season is just around the corner... and that it's time to take a look, once again, at the best the Metropolitan Division has to offer. First up, the men between the pipes.
Honorable mention: Thomas Greiss, Philipp Grubauer, Antti Raanta
10. Cam Ward
Last year's rank: 8
2014-15 was something of a bounceback season for Ward. Once a workhorse for Carolina in his post-Cup days, injuries and subpar play had held him to just 47 appearances between 2012 and 2014. He surpassed that combined two-year total this past season, though, starting the majority of his team's games for the first time since 2011-12 - and posting his best save percentage (and first shutout) in three seasons, as well.
9. Michal Neuvirth
Last year's rank: N/A
After spending parts of two seasons in
Siberia Buffalo (and doing an admirable job of it), the former Caps' netminder found himself in Long Island just in time for the Isles' playoff push this past spring. His brief time backing up fellow former Caps' netminder Jaroslav Halak was less than sparkling, though, with a sub-.900 save percentage in five games (although he did stop all six shots he faced in his lone playoff appearance against his former 'mates). Despite that blip, Neuvirth continued his tour of the Metropolitan Division by signing a two-year deal with the Flyers during the offseason, where he'll look to bolster his solid if unspectacular career numbers so far.
8. Eddie Lack
Last year's rank: N/A
One of the new additions to the Metropolitan Division - and as a result, this list - Lack was traded to Carolina at the Draft to replace Anton Khudobin (who was shuttled off to Anaheim an hour earlier). The move appears to be something of a lateral move, with Lack's numbers over his two-year, 82-game career fairly comparable to Khudobin's numbers in six seasons (but just nine more games overall) - and it'll be interesting to see if Lack can maintain or improve upon his stats as he moves to a weaker team. If he can, it's likely he'll be able to wrestle away the starting job from Cam Ward.
7. Jaroslav Halak
Last year's rank: 5
After facing him in two playoff series with two different teams - and even employing him for a brief spell - Caps fans need no introduction to #7 on our list. Halak played a big role in the rejuvenation of the Islanders last season, becoming the franchise's winningest goaltender with 38 victories and blanking opponents six times, one shy of his career high and tied for third-most in the League in 2014-15. That said, Halak's numbers weren't all that great last season; his save percentage was his worst in three years (and the second-lowest among Metropolitan starting goaltenders, i.e. those appearing in at least half of their team's games) and his GAA was his highest since 2010-11 (second-highest among Metro starters).
6. Marc-Andre Fleury
Last year's rank: 7
In a season where a lot of things went wrong for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Fleury was one of the few that went right. Fleury's 2014-15 season was one of the best of his career, doubling his career-high shutout total (and finishing the season with the League's top mark in that department) and narrowly missing personal bests in save percentage and GAA. He managed to accomplish all of that while facing over 1800 shots behind an injury-riddled and callup-filled lineup. As for those pesky playoffs, the Pens were bounced in a five-game first-round loss to the Rangers... but they didn't go as quietly as many thought they might, and Fleury was a big part of that. In fact, his .927 save percentage was his best since the 2007-08 run to (and loss in) the Stanley Cup Final, and was the fifth-best mark in this year's postseason. An outlier season? Perhaps, but a good one nonetheless.
5. Steve Mason
Last year's rank: 10
The Flyers have seemingly been looking for The Guy in net since Ron Hextall hung up the pads, and there were no shortage of raised eyebrows when that search resulted in Steve Mason's arrival in Philly back in 2013. A little over two seasons later, that move doesn't look so crazy - all Mason's done since joining the Flyers is put up career numbers (behind somewhat lackluster teams), averaging a .923 save percentage over that span. Last season, his .928 save percentage trailed only Vezina-winner Carey Price and Vezina-finalist Devan Dubnyk, with an even-strength save percentage checking in at .940 (also third-best, behind Price and Ottawa's Andrew Hammond). For now, it seems the only question in net for the Flyers is whether Mason can stay healthy enough to get them back to the postseason.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky
Last year's rank: 2
|2014-15 (Blue Jackets)||51||30||17||3||134||2.68||1632||1498||.918||2|
Like most of his teammates, Bobrovsky's 2014-15 season was hindered a bit by an injury bug that tormented the Columbus locker room for the better part of the year. Health, a struggling team in front of him and some individual stumbles pushed his numbers down a bit last year - but he rebounded in time for a strong finish, posting a save percentage around .928 for the final two months of the season. With a somewhat suspect defensive corps in front of him for the upcoming season, a lot of the Blue Jackets' hopes will likely hinder on Bobrovsky staying healthy - if he does, they should at least find themselves in the probable logjam of Metro teams fighting for a playoff spot come springtime.
Last year's rank: 3
Over the past two seasons, Schneider has had the somewhat unenviable task of having to fill the legendary shoes ofMartin Brodeur on a team that is going through some serious changes. So far, it looks like he's been up to the challenge, putting up similarly sparkling numbers to those he posted on better Canucks teams, while carrying a much heavier workload than he did in Vancouver.
2. Braden Holtby
Last year's rank: 4
The change in the front office and behind the bench in Washington has had a massive impact on many of the Caps' players - but few have undergone as dramatic a transition over the course of the last year as Braden Holtby. Under the guidance of goalie guru Mitch Korn, and with a more defensively-sound squad in front of him, Holtby regained the form that had almost been lost during the Adam Oates era. Holtby began to find a new level to his game towards the end of 2014 and never looked back, putting up career numbers in the regular season and the playoffs while carrying the heaviest workload of any goaltender - and in doing so, put himself into the conversation as one of the League's best goalies.
1. Henrik Lundqvist
Last year's rank: 1
Unfortunately for Holtby and the Caps, the King still rules supreme in the Metropolitan Division. A freak injury in February kept Lundqvist out for almost two months towards the end of the 2014-15 season - probably the only thing (short of a lockout) that would ever prevent him from appearing in at least 60 games, limiting him to just 46 appearances last year. He was ready to go in time to wrap up the regular season, though, and by the time the playoffs rolled around he was back to his dominant self, helping to carry the Rangers to yet another Eastern Conference Final appearance. That said... there were times in the playoffs, in each series, where he looked almost beatable, almost human. They were almost always sandwiched in between feats of superhuman goaltending, of course, but as he nears his mid-30s, it's possible that King Henrik's reign is nearing its end.