Juuse Saros
Juuse Saros is the best goalie in the NHL and I will not take any other answer. Saros is doing the impossible with a dreadful Predators team. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Juuse Saros Is The Best Goaltender In The NHL

Hockey guy Trey is turning into controversial Trey for this one, and I don’t care. Sometimes you have to trust what your eyeballs tell you rather than whatever a stat sheet has to say. Hockey is a team game. Juuse Saros is the best goalie in the NHL. You just don’t know it because he plays for the Nashville Predators.

Let’s talk about Nashville for a second. Gavin Daly recently released a post on the worst contracts in the NHL. While he said he could have included five Sharks on the list (he’s right) I also think the Preds have a case there too. Their entire team is overpaid.

Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund, and Ryan Johansen create a forward line of overpaid bums that create zero offense. If it weren’t for Filip Forsberg (who was hurt for a good chunk of the year) this would be one of the most dreadful offenses in the league.

That’s exactly what the Preds were this year. Egregious offensively. They scored a paltry 2.65 goals per game which ranked 23rd in the league. The teams directly below them? New Jersey and the team we just made fun of, San Jose. No team with a worse offense made the postseason. It was just Nashville.

If you’re not scoring goals and creating offense, guess what’s happening? It probably means your goalie is getting blitzed on the other end of the ice. Juuse Saros has entered the chat. As a team, Nashville faced 30.8 shots per night which was the 9th highest mark in the league. No team that faced more shots made the postseason. It was just Nashville.

So when we talk about some of the defenders in front of Saros (Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Erik Gudbranson) the reality is those guys have hung Saros out to dry more often than not. Some of it has to do with the lack of offense. Some of it has to do with the defenders not really doing their jobs.

Think of what that does for Saros. There is never a five minute stretch where Saros gets to relax. The puck is constantly in his zone and he’s fighting off haymakers the entire game. It’s a flurry of shots on his end while his guys don’t even bother putting pucks on net on the other end.

There is only one reason this Nashville made the postseason is because of Saros. I’m not sure there’s another netminder in the league that could have done what Saros did. Saros put this team on his back and did it every single night. There was no timeshare here. Saros was in net every single night. Pekka Rinne was in net just twice during the entire month of April and May combined.

Despite a lack of offense from his forwards, his defense constantly hanging him out to dry, never having a night off, and being stuck in the hardest division (that includes Carolina, Tampa, Florida, and Dallas) Saros posted a 21-11-1 record. Saros allowed 78 goals on 1,073 shots notching a .927 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average.

The stats don’t really do it justice though. Mainly because he wasn’t super human during the early stages of the season. Nashville was ready to sell and Saros just wasn’t having it. This guy willed his team into the dance from March on.

March:

Goals Against Average (1.27)

Save Percentage (.963)

April

Goals Against Average (2.36)

Save Percentage (.929)

May

Goals Against Average (1.71)

Save Percentage (.935)

Saros was as elite as it gets despite all those existing factors.

Our lead hockey analyst Andrew McGuinness posted his top five goalies in the company slack the other day.

1: Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets)

2: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning)

3: Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins)

4: Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights)

5: Robin Lehner (Vegas Golden Knights)

This isn’t meant to disparage any of the guys on this list. However, I can easily poke holes in all of their games.

I know Hellebuyck is the analytical darling but he posted a save percentage and goals against average both worse than Saros. The North division was known as the division with no defense and Hellebuyck really did his part to uphold that. This is the same guy we’re talking about that gave up six goals on 23 shots to Edmonton on April 26th, right? I watched that game. I didn’t see a star.

Vasilevskiy is great. I’m not denying that but his awful performance late in the season helped crown me a fantasy championship. Vasilevskiy posted similar numbers to Saros but has the god damn Tampa Bay lightning in front of him. His life is a hell of a lot easier playing for Tampa.

I give Tuuka shit all the time but let’s be honest; this Boston defense was stingy regardless of who was in net.

Marc-Andre Fleury is fantastic. As is Robin Lehner. This was also a team effort. Vegas led the league in blocked shots allowed the fewest goals in the NHL for a reason. This defense in front of the netminders is the best that it gets. This is the same Fleury who was left unprotected in the expansion draft and Lehner that was swapped for Malcolm Subban who looks a lot closer to an AHL goalie.

When we coin the phrase “standing on his head” that’s Saros. He’s the best that it gets. Mostly because there’s not another goalie that looks or plays like him. Every goalie has their strategy. Lehner is a big 6-foot-4 anchor. Fluery is basically a ballerina in net. You get the point.

I’m not even sure how to describe it, but when you watch Saros, he’s so unique. It almost resembles a linebacker reading the offense before it happens. He’s the only goalie in the league that makes the offense react to him. Not the other way around. Almost like you have to know where Ray Lewis was on the field at all times.

Saros never anchors and waits for the shots to come his way. He’s always moving around trying to get the offense to shoot the puck to where he wants it to go. During the playoffs against Carolina, they fired shot after shot at Saros but you almost felt like every shot was heading in a direction Saros wanted it to go. The guy was in full control the entire game despite being blitzed at all times.

In other words, the opposite of Tristan Jarry. The Islanders identified really early in the series that Jarry was susceptible to the high glove side shot. The Isles peppered him in that area over and over again. The Series consequentially got uglier the longer it went. Jarry had a hole and New York took advantage.

It never felt that way during the Carolina vs Nashville series. The Predators were outmanned and outgunned from the second the puck dropped. Nashville lost every face off. Carolina out shot Nashville by 47 over the course of the six game series (and it felt WAY worse). The Hurricanes were the better team across the board but somehow were forced to play four over time games to decide the series.

The Canes threw shot after shot at the net and it just felt like they were facing a guy that wasn’t human. Carolina was just hoping and praying a puck would go through the back of the net. You could see the frustration on every player’s face. This dude is not human! Saros, of course, is human but there’s not another goalie that could have done this.

You have to earn every single goal you get on Saros. There are no gimme’s. Here are some of the goals that Saros allowed during the series. Forget about the saves during the series. These are the goals that went through. Translation… nobody is making these saves.

Who’s guarding Hamilton here? What’s the plan?
Wide open shot. Only reason it goes in is because the post helps out McGinn.
Martin Necas is a total tank but if you want to blame Saros for anything, it’s the fact that he’s 5-foot-11. On the rare occasion this happens, he’s not long enough to get there.
Way to go Ryan Ellis. Way to screen your own goalie. Another post cheese and in type of goal.
I’m not sure Trocheck fits this puck into a key hole. You just tip your cap here.
Anybody going to stop the wide open break away? No? Okay.
I mean what the fuck do you want the guy to do here?

What does Saros look like on a team that’s actually competitive? Right now, they may as well rename their team to the Nashville Juuse Saros’. The fact that Saros planted a seed of doubt in Carolina says everything you need to know about this dude. On this team, that should have never been possible.

The Predators may have been eliminated from the postseason but I only think higher of Juuse Saros today than I did before the start of the playoffs. That’s saying something because the man helped me clinch a fantasy championship. Speaking of fantasy, Saros probably isn’t among the top of names you even want to draft just because Nashville isn’t securing consistent wins against good competition regardless. However, it’s time to recognize just how good this dude is.

The Nashville Predators are the NFL equivalent of the Houston Texans. Deshaun Watson is great but even he could only get the Texans to 4-12. Saros somehow got this team into the postseason and isn’t an actual predator. (Get it. I won’t be slandered for libel so if you don’t get it here you go). At this very moment in time, there isn’t a better goalie than Juuse Saros. I won’t take any other answer.

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