Who is the most underrated goalie in the league?
Emily Kaplan: I'd like to offer some appreciation for John Gibson. He certainly hasn't had an easy start, with the Anaheim Ducks wading through a ton of injuries. Anaheim began the season without Patrick Eaves, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Gibson's backup, Ryan Miller. Gibson has been a damn workhorse, facing 318 shots through his first 10 games, while posting a .921 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average. When I watched the Ducks' season-opener against the Arizona Coyotes -- an electric 5-4 win -- I couldn't help but think some of Gibson's saves were downright heroic: splits, stuffing Derek Stepan on a breakaway, you name it. Yes, four goals got past him, and he allowed a few appetizing rebounds, but this game was about flashing his potential. When Gibson turned away 31 of 32 shots in his most recent outing against the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning (who are averaging more than four goals a game), he earned my vote of confidence.
Gibson is just 24 and played a career-high 52 games last season, with a .924 save percentage and 2.22 GAA. He's been plagued, however, by lower-body injuries throughout his career to the point where some around the league wonder if he can be counted on for 60-plus games. That's one of the few knocks against the kid. He's just good.
Ben Arledge: I considered the likes of Gibson, Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, but I ultimately settled on the always-forgotten Cory Schneider. For much of his career, he's been an afterthought, and it's just baffling. He spent three seasons as Roberto Luongo's handcuff for the Vancouver Canucks, then moved to New Jersey to split time with Martin Brodeur before finally getting a shot as a No. 1 in 2014-15 as a 28-year-old. It's astonishing it took that long.
Schneider has a very mediocre .909 save percentage to begin his injury-riddled 2017-18 season, but his even-strength save percentage is still a sparkling .932. Plus, the larger body of work makes the case that Schneider should be mentioned among the best. Since taking over the starting gig in 2014, the American has a .928 even-strength save percentage (sixth among goalies with 100 games played) and 2.43 goals-against average while facing the third-most shots in that time (5,602). According to Corsica.hockey, his .822 high-danger save percentage is fourth among goalies with at least 7,000 minutes, behind Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky and Jonathan Quick. That's a pretty good group of tenders. Just to pad the stats a little further, consider that he is fourth in Hockey-Reference's goalie point shares in that time, with 36.4. Overall, that's a pretty good resume for a guy who was the third stringer for Team USA at the World Cup and is often forgotten in that top, and even second, tier of NHL goalies.
His under-the-radar status is mostly because of his team. The New Jersey Devils haven't managed 85 points in a season since Schneider has been the No. 1, but that has nothing to do with him. It has, however, hurt his appeal. Only two goalies have received less goal support since 2014 than Schneider's 2.17 -- pretty hard to win games with that kind of offense. Perhaps the emergence of the Devils in the season's opening month (8-2-0) will bring Schneider back into the light, allowing hockey fans to see just how talented this Boston College product truly is.
Greg Wyshynski: It's Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. Hear me out. Underrated basically means unappreciated, and nothing speaks to how unappreciated Hellebuyck was than the fact that the Jets brought in Steve Mason on a two-year deal because they didn't trust the 24-year-old to carry the load. They saw him as a 1-A goalie, if that.
Needless to say, they appreciate him now: Mason has given up 18 goals in four games, going 0-3-1; Hellebuyck is 6-0-1 in eight games, giving up just 14 goals.
Hellebuyck's success is backed up by the numbers. He has a sterling .948 even-strength save percentage. He hasn't allowed a low-danger goal this season, according to Corsica, and is 10th in the NHL in low-danger shot-save percentage over the past two seasons (.978). In other words, he's making the stops he's expected to make and played ahead of expectations -- his .936 expected save percentage, or his play vs. what his stats should look like, leads the NHL this season.
Let's also consider that Hellebuyck has played his entire career for coach Paul Maurice, whose system has been notoriously unkind to his own goaltenders.
He's a tall (6-foot-4), fundamentally sound goalie who showed promise last season and is delivering on it so far this season. He might be perpetually underrated playing in Winnipeg, because that's just how that goes. Too bad the NHL didn't go to the 2018 Winter Olympics; it would have been interesting to see if Hellebuyck could have played his way onto the Team USA roster.
Chris Peters: The first two names that popped into my head were Gibson and Schneider, but taking a few extra minutes to think about it, it's Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators. As evidenced by my knee-jerk thoughts, Anderson has so often been an afterthought despite a career in which he has put up good numbers on teams of varying degrees of talent.
Anderson is off to a tough start, with a sub-.900 save percentage through nine starts. However, you have to look at his career while with Ottawa, where he finally found a home as a No. 1 after years as a backup and one great season with the Colorado Avalanche. Anderson has posted a .919 save percentage, a 155-101-37 record, a 2.60 goals-against average and 25 shutouts through 302 appearances with the Sens. His performance last season, amid leaves of absence as his wife, Nicholle, battled cancer, was incredible. Anderson, 36, is more than a feel-good story, though. He's just plain good, and has remained good at an age when most goaltenders see their numbers decline.
Since 2014-15, Anderson has a .919 save percentage in 144 appearances, which ties him for eighth among all goalies with at least 100 starts in that span. He also has a .929 mark in 46 postseason games. Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals is the only active goaltender with a better save percentage in at least 25 playoff appearances (stats via Hockey-Reference.com's play index). Anderson is usually not going to be considered among the league's elite, especially not while on the wrong side of 35, but he has had a really impressive career that deserves more attention and respect.