Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros just may be the most undervalued goalie in the NHL.
Often overlooked in comparison to players like Andrei Vasilevskiy or Connor Hellebuyck, Saros has quietly ranked at or near the top of most goaltending categories for the better part of two-and-a-half seasons now, firmly planting himself in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy last season and this year.
Perhaps the Predators’ most vexing question heading into this season was which version of Saros would they be getting: the player who was 6-6 with a save percentage barely over .900 and a goals-against average dangerously close to 3.00, or the guy who led the NHL in wins with a save percentage near .940 and a goals-against average below 2.00?
Twenty-nine starts into the season, the answer appears to be the latter.
Among goalies with 20 or more starts, Saros ranks first in saves (830), fourth in save percentage (.929) and even-strength save percentage (.935), fifth in shutouts (2) and sixth in GAA (2.21). He’s also tied with Vasilevskiy for the NHL lead with 19 wins and the most games with a .900 save percentage or better (22).
Saros has allowed two goals or fewer in 24 of his 29 starts this year.
“[Saros] has played so consistently throughout the year,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “He’s a big reason why we have a chance to win every night and a big reason why we’re able to win quite a bit here as of late.”
Saros’ development really seemed to accelerate when the Predators transitioned from former head coach Peter Laviolette to Hynes. Since Hynes took over on Jan. 7, 2020, Saros ranks first in the NHL in save percentage (.930) and second in both wins (52) and goals-against average (2.22).
His goals-against average dropped from 2.64 to 2.22 and his save percentage rose from .915 to .930 with two more shutouts, nine more wins and six fewer losses.
Since the start of the second half of last season (March 21), Saros leads the NHL in wins (34), saves (1,449), save percentage (.932), goals-against average (2.11) and minutes played (2,981:16) with the second-most shutouts (5).
It could be argued he’s the biggest reason the Predators lead the Western Conference with a 23-11-2 record and 48 points.
“I think there’s no better goalie in the world than him,” Predators captain Roman Josi said last week.
Added forward Matt Luff: “Juuse Saros is the best goaltender in the league. I don’t think that’s even up for discussion. I mean, you see how he battles in there down to the last seconds. He’s unreal; he’s the best goalie in the league.”
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