Both the Western Conference Final and the Eastern Conference Final were interesting in this year’s NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, notably because of the goalie matchups in both series. Marc-Andre Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck faced off in the West, with Braden Holtby and Andrei Vasilevskiy meeting in the East. The most interesting takeaway is that both the veteran goalies, Fleury and Holtby, led their teams past the playoff rookies Hellebuyck and Vasilevskiy for a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. Here’s a look at the details of each series, and all four goalies who were a part of them.
For the third Stanley Cup playoffs in a row, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will be meeting in the second round, with the past two series seeing Pittsburgh come out on top, going on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Also for the third year in a row, Caps goalie Braden Holtby and Pens goalie Matt Murray will be the guys between the pipes for their respective teams. Of the veteran Holtby and the young, already two-time Cup champion Murray, which goaltender gives their team the best chance to win and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals?
On Tuesday, Washington Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz informed the media of his decision to go with goalie Philipp Grubauer over Braden Holtby for Game 1 of the playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Trotz said that he is comfortable with his decision for Thursday night’s game, but will evaluate it “game by game” after that. If history proves anything, this is a bad way to approach your goaltending situation going into the playoffs. Although Grubauer is fully capable of performing and winning games, this is still a mistake on the part of the Capitals’ coaching staff.
An NHL goaltender has the weight of the world on their shoulders. A good performance from a team’s goalie has the power to make or break a game, a responsibility felt in no other position in sports. To have good games here and there is one thing, but to be consistently exceptional is another— the goalies on this list have earned their spots in the ‘Top 5’ for being among the few who impress year after year.