Now a week into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there have been many developing trends around the league so far. The underdogs are pulling ahead, many contests are going to overtime, and unlikely heroes are emerging. The most noticeable trend, though, has been the poor goaltending in net. Some of the better teams are not getting the netminding they need, which is leading to their downfall. Taking this into consideration, if the New York Rangers happened to make it, they would have had an automatic advantage over several clubs in the league.
Besides Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), and Tuukka Rask (Boston), the rest of the top goalies have been below average. First, we shall take a look at save percentage. The all-mighty Martin Brodeur has put up a .884 save percentage for his New Jersey Devils, and they find themselves trailing the Flyers in that series, 2-1. Former Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been even worse with a .870 save percentage, which is very surprising.
Evgeni Nabakov of the San Jose Sharks is currently at the bottom of the pack with a .865 save percentage, which is not going to help his club if they want to prevent themselves from yet another early postseason exit. You look at these names, and then the stats next to these names, and it astonishing how some of them have not been performing like they are used to.
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Now we look at goal against average, which is even more pathetic than the save percentage statistics. Ilya Bryzgalov, who is a runner-up for the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) this season with what he has been able to do for the Coyotes, has a goals against average of four. Washington’s Jose Theodore, who has already been replaced by Semyon Varlamov in their series against the Canadiens, has a GAA of 3.70. Their opponents, though, have not been much better in goal with Jaroslav Halak’s 3.58 goals against average.
These are not playoff numbers by any means, and quite frankly, they are embarrassing. That being said, the Rangers would have had a major advantage heading into the playoffs if they had beat the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center last Sunday. Henrik Lundqvist, even when streaky, always seems to manage to keep his save percentage above .900 and his goal against average below 3.00, and if not, somewhere around there. This is incomparably better than what is listed above.
So just imagine for a moment that the Blueshirts were going up against the Washington Capitals in the opening round, which was the case just a year ago. Henrik Lundqvist would be red hot after leading his team to two straight victories over the Flyers to get into the playoffs, in addition to the performances he put on prior to that. He is then matched up with Jose Theodore, who would again be replaced by Varlamov due to poor play. Varlamov, so far against the Habs, has not been much better than Theodore. There would be a ton of pressure on the youngster with the Caps being projected by many to win the Cup, and the Blueshirts would have had a decent chance at making it to the semifinals for the first time since 07-08.
Of course there are other areas in which they could be beat being that the Caps are no joke on offense, but Lundqvist has the ability to carry this team and I think he would have been presented with that opportunity if the Rangers made it.
With goaltending this faulty, many of these series are up for grabs. You see teams like the Coyotes, Flyers, and Predators giving their skilled opponents a run for their money and that is a direct result of the competition allowing an ample amount of pucks into the back of their net. This just makes us fans regret that the Rangers were not able to pull off a win in that shootout game in Philly even more.