As a stupid goalie myself, I pay a little more attention to goaltenders as compared to other positions. While everyone in the world did a prediction on how the teams would finish, I'm going to make some more goaltending related predictions in grading each teams' goaltending. And with that brief intro, let's get on with it.
Grade Range - This will be the range of goaltending effectiveness. For example, a team with a young, talented goaltender who has a nobody for a backup would have a range of maybe D to A-, while a team with two veteran goalies who are solid, but not great, would probably get a B- to B+. Note that this is not a guess at their stats, just how well they play. A good goalie on a great team might have better stats than a great goalie on a bad team.
Risk - How likely the grade will be at the low end as compared to the high end.
My Prediction of Grade - My guess of how the goaltending will be this season, from deep within my head. Remember though, I'm a goalie. I let people shoot pucks at me for a living. I'm clearly damaged goods.
Here's the Central:
Goaltenders: Marty Turco, Corey Crawford
Grade Range: B+ to D
Notes: Our b!tch Turco has moved even closer to his kryptonite (Detroit) this season and made his home with little brother. His strengths are obvious when you watch him. He plays a hybrid style with an amazingly quick glove hand and is the best puck handler in the league. He also has an amazing ability to let weak goals in from weird angles, especially against the Wings. However, as much as we rag on him, I think he is a a better goalie than some people give him credit for. Corey Crawford is a standard young goalie, quick, some potential, but I can't see him being a starter. I actually think that the Hawks improved in this respect.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Goaltenders: Steve Mason, Mathieu Garon
Grade Range: A- to D-
Notes: Mason two years ago was one of the best in the league and is a quick, flexible, young goaltender who catches with the wrong hand. Last year, however, he was terrible, consistantly played with no confidence and looked nothing like the goaltender who won the Calder the year before. There were reports that he was almost Kyle Wellwood coming into camp and it showed on the ice. Garon, his backup is a decent, if unspectacular goaltender. It all depends if Mason can get things together this year. He needs to reduce his reaction based game a bit and work on his positioning.
Detroit Red Wings
Goaltenders: Jimmah(!) Howard, Chris Osgood
Grade Range: A- to C
Notes: We all know our position in net. Jimmah, does he pull another year like last or a Steve Mason and almost get kicked out of the NHL? Does Osgood return to being a competent goaltender or stay as a Red and White verison of Vesa Toskola? All signs so far seem to point that we will get competent years out of both. Jimmah looks confident so far, even with the last game taken into consideration. Osgood is 1 for 1 in having strong games thus far. As far as style wise, Jimmah needs to occasionally keep his hands out in front of his body more to catch, rather than just block (see the slap shot goal last game for an example of when he should have caught the puck rather than blocked). His movement, however, is crisp, fast, and accurate. This I like. Osgood needs to keep working on his movement in the crease. He's slow to recover and while an old man, still can improve on this, such as getting up with the correct leg. He's regressed slightly from the "new" Osgood that we saw two years ago into old habits. Still, he stopped the puck in game 1 and hopefully can keep that up. I expect a .915 SAA from Howard this season, which will be more than adequate for #12.
Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne, Anders Lindback
Grade Range: A to B
Notes: In the past few years, Nashville has had an incredible ability to create an all-star goaltender one year, only to replace him with another goaltender the next year. First Tomas Vokoun, next was Chris Mason, then Dan Ellis, so is Pekka Rinne next? Probably not. This monster goaltender stands 6'5" yet has the quickness of Jeff Lerg. He's flexible and plays an athletic style. I personally think he is probably the most talented in the league. He still has to deal with a couple flaws in his game. First he sometimes has a consistancy issue; he doesn't bring his A game every game. Secondly, he plays in Nashville, which can't be fun. Lindback, however, is another talented, huge goaltender at 6-6. In net, I think the Preds will be fine.
St. Louis Blues
Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Ty Conklin
Grade Range: A- to B
Notes: Halak absolutely dominated Ovechkin and our boy Sid last year, so of course Montreal traded him immediantly. He plays a style very similar to Howard and is a big, quick goalie in net. He's a bit predictable (as is Howard) and I wonder if he can keep up the stats he put up last year. Still he's a solid goalie. Ty Conklin was amazingly resigned by the same team he played for the season before. He plays a bit of an old school style and isn't a great skater. Nor is he very flexible. However, he's extremely quick and this makes up for a lot of his shortcomings. As we know, he's a solid backup and can fill in if needed.
So there's a rundown of the West. Overall, I think the Central Division probably has the best goaltending in the conference and probably the league.