First Round Goaltending Match Ups
As most everyone knows from my goaltending blogs, i am a goaltender at heart. So I figured I would do a goaltending playoff preview, because the truth is a goaltender can steal the cup if he is good enough or at least bring a team close to it. Roy did with Montreal, Giguere did it twice for Anaheim, Ward did it for Carolina, and Roloson almost did it with Edmonton. Goaltending is probably the most important aspect for any team to succeed in the playoffs and this year isn't any different. When going down the matchups for this years first round, Goaltending battles will be key. I am going to preview each matchup and talk about what each goaltender will need to do to carry their team to the next round. Also I will give a winner for each series based on goaltending match up (this is actually who I think will win, just the goaltending match up winner).
#1 Canucks vs. #8 Black Hawks
Luongo vs. Crawford
This series could be won by Vancouver only with goaltending, however this doesn't need to be the case because of the Sedins. However it is obvious who the better goaltender is in this match up. This is Crawford's first go in the playoffs and he hasn't been the most reliable guy for Chicago this year. At the other end, we have Roberto bingo-bango Luongo in the nets. He has the experience, has had good series as well as bad series, but he is one of the best in the league. You have to take that over Crawford who sits behind a much worse defense than the one that carried Niemi to a championship. Unless Crawford becomes the replica Cam Ward from a few years ago leading Carolina to a championship, Luongo wins this one easily
Winner: Roberto Luongo
#2 Sharks vs. #7 Kings
Niemi vs. Quick
Well this is probably the weakest match up in the first round. Both goaltenders have shown flashes of brilliance, but also periods of bad play as well. Quick doesn't have the experience that most goalies have, so it will be interesting to see if he can bring his A game for the playoffs. It is pretty much up to him if they win after some recent injuries to some big name players. While on the other side, San Jose went after Niemi hoping to get away from bad playoff goaltending that they had in the past. Niemi gets a chance to prove all his doubters that it wasn't just Chicago's stellar D that led hm to playoff glory and the Stanley Cup last year. He has a lot to prove as well as a lot of pressure. However, if I go based off of season performance, I am going with Quick in this series.
Winner: Jonathan Quick
#3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix
Howard vs. Bryzgalov
With news sprouting today that the Yotes may actually be moving to Winnipeg come the end of the playoffs, the team may be a bit distracted. However having Bryzgalaov between the pipes may be the equalizer in this series. Bryzgalov is a solid goaltender who usually shows up in the playoffs. While Detroit has inexperienced Jimmy Howard protecting the nets in his first playoff series as a full time number 1. Howard has been one of the most inconsistent goalies in the league having tremendous games as well as some very poor performances. It will be interesting to see how long Howard goes as the teams number one. He just hasn't liven up to the hype that he had when he was first coming into their system. If I have to go on goaltending alone, Bryzgalov gets the nod in this series.
Winner: Ilya Bryzgalov
#4 Ducks vs. #5 Preds
This one too seems to be a one sided battle between the pipes. The Ducks have been extremely unlucky when it comes to goaltending this season as both Hiller and Emery have been hampered by injuries. Right now it is looking like Dan Ellis (the ex-Pred) will get the start for the beginning of the series, however both Hiller and Emery could play as well. As for the Preds, Pekke Rinne has been one of the best goaltenders down the strecth period! The guy is a huge athletic goaltender who has played one of his best seasons with the Preds. The bad news for Rinne is his Pred teammates haven't been able to find the net much, leaving most games on Rinne's shoulders. However, I feel that Rinne can handle it and the Ducks question marks in the goal spell a win for Nashville on the goaltendning side.
Winner: Pekke Rinne
#1 Capitals vs. #8 Rangers
Now the Captials are the favorite for the series even though their goaltending is always changing. The three headed monster as some call it of Holtby, Varlamov, and Neuvirth can be great some times and shaky at others. Neuvirth will be starting the series, but if his play isn't up to par, we could see Varly get another chance. Holtby is back in Hershey going for another calder cup, so most likely we won't see him. The Rangers meanwhile have on of the best and a potential Vezina winner in King Henrik. Lundqvist lead the league in shutouts this year with 11. He could carry this team far in the playoffs with good preformances and if he continues his consistent play as well. Lundqvist is getting the nod in this matchup because of his stellar play as well as his experience with the Rangers.
Winner: Henrik Lundqvist
#2 Flyers vs. #7 Sabres
The Flyers are in another playoff and the biggest surprise is that Micheal Leighton is not in nets this time. The guy who lead the team to the cup last year was replaced this year by rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob has had a great rookie season and should play a factor in the series. However, it has to make people wonder when the team goes with Leighton as the playoff backup over Boucher after Leighton spent most of the season off the roster and in the AHL. As for the Sabres, they can always count on Ryan Miller in the net to help them to victory and this series will be no different. Miller could lead his team to the upset, and just might actually do it. Miller wins this match up easily.
Winner: Ryan Miller
#3 Bruins vs. #6 Canadiens
This is the series everyone has been talking about, and the oe I am most excited for. Not one match up isn't lopsided and the teams hate each other already. The Bruins have soon to be Vezina winner Tim Thomas, who came out of no where after losing his job to Tukka Rask and then reclaiming it after an injury to Rask. Since Thomas has posted on of the best save percentages and goals against in the league. Thomas was one of the biggest reasons Boston got the number three seed, and he could be the reason the team advances. However in the last few weeks Thomas has shown signs of being human and he hasn't played as well as he did earlier in the season. On the other side, Carey Price has reemerged as the player he was touted to be when drafted. After being the back up to Jaroslav Halak last season, and getting to see Halak lead the team deep in the playoffs: Price gets his chance. He has had a great season so far and taking his Canadiens deep could solidify this past seasons preformance as well as his position in the nets for a long time. In the end though I have to pick the best goalie in the league in Tim Thomas (although this is the closest match up that could go either way).
Winner: Tim Thomas
#4 Penguins vs. #5 Lightning
This will be an interesting series as the Penguins go in already banged up. It looks more and more like Corsby won't be playing at all and without him it will be up to Marc-Andre Fluery to get the Pens through. Fluery has a ton of experience and plays quite w in the playoffs. Look for the usual calm and collected Fleury to be the back stop for this ailing Pens team. The lightning on the other hand have made some huge moves that have paid off in the last year or so. However, none bigger than acquiring the services of Dwayne Roloson who has played absolutely lights out since joining the team. Roloson knows what it takes to carry a team all the way to the cup like he did for the Edmonton Oilers a few years ago. He will need to bring that preformance if he wants to get past Fleury and the Pens. I am going to take the goalie with the winning experience in this match up: Fleury.
Winner: Marc-Andre Fleury
So that raps up the first round goaltendning match ups and duels. I will post another match up article once we reach the second round. Not a lot of upsets in these matchups, but there were several close calls. It will be interesting to see who becomes a Patrick Roy, Cam Ward, J.S. Giguere, or Dwayne Roloson of this years playoffs.