At times, the NHL playoffs can feel like they’re all about the goaltenders. It’s the most highly visible position in the sport, and in a short series where an entire season can come down to one play, the goalies are often the first to get the credit, and always the first to get the blame.
One guy stands on his head and steals a game. Another gives up a bad goal and loses his job. And then someone else has 20,000 fans booing him, right up until he makes a game-saving stop and everyone goes back to pretending they loved him all along. Sometimes, if a series goes long enough, one goalie gets to be all three of those guys.
It can be hard to keep track of it all. So with the second round almost over, this seemed like a good time to take stock of the market and check in with the goalies who’ve played key roles in this year’s postseason.
Stock Rising: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Price had the best season of his career, which was good. He was the starter on gold medal–winning Team Canada in Sochi, which was better. But now that he’s led the Canadiens into the Eastern Conference finals, vanquishing the heavily favored Bruins along the way, he may be approaching legend status. He’s not there yet — this is Montreal, after all, where you either win the Cup or apologize to everyone for wasting their time. But if Price keeps generating stats like this one, it’s hard to bet against him.
The almost creepily stoic Price was good against the Lightning and great against the Bruins. In between, he managed to work in an adorable dog-rescue story. Can he keep it going? I wouldn’t put it past him. Then again, these days nobody is putting anything past him.1
Holding Steady: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Quick’s reputation has always been tied directly to his playoff performance, since his career regular-season numbers are only a little better than average. But it’s his postseason play that has earned him his elite status (and massive contract). He was unbeatable during the Kings’ 2012 Cup run, and almost as good during last year’s trip to the conference finals.
He hasn’t managed to perform the same magic this year, and that’s a big part of the reason the Kings are facing a Game 7 against Anaheim on Friday night. He looked like he was back in beast mode during a six-game win streak that eliminated the Sharks and put the Ducks in a 2-0 hole, but returned to earth while Anaheim clawed back.
If the Kings lose Friday, Quick’s postseason will go down as a disappointment. If they win, his stature as one of the league’s best big-game goalies will be set to grow yet again.
Stock Rising: Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Like Quick, Crawford has his share of doubters based on his regular-season numbers. And his postseason totals hadn’t been especially impressive, either, right up until he led the Blackhawks to last year’s Stanley Cup. That was enough to earn him a big contract extension, one that some pointed to as a possible overpay based on one random hot streak.
Well, make it two random hot streaks, because Crawford’s been fantastic so far this postseason. His Game 3 shutout against the Blues helped turn that series around, and he went into lockdown mode on Tuesday to eliminate the Wild. His .931 save percentage and 1.97 GAA are among the league leaders, and he’s doing it with the type of saves that leave opponents making adorably sad faces.
It’s been more than two decades since a starting goalie won back-to-back Cups.2 Crawford is halfway there.