April 29, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes center Marc-Antoine Pouliot (43) goes for the puck as Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (20), defenseman Shea Weber (6) and goalie Pekka Rinne (35) defend during the third period in game two of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Great Goalie Race Part 1: Western Conference


Even the best of goalies lose in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. Above is Pekka Rinne stopping Marc-Antoine Pouliot in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Out of four first round match-ups in the East, 3 of them went to seven games. The Western conference hadn’t seen one game seven, only 5′s and 6′s. The goalies were pretty busy. But is the goalie the only deciding factor of how many games the series goes to? I think so.

I think the goalie is responsible for winning or losing a game. They are the puppet masters. They dictate what is going on, since they can see the whole ice and map out a play. These fine players are, in my opinion, the hardest workers on the ice. But that’s beside the point. The point is, I think you can tell who will win a series by who the coach puts in net. Not a single game, but a series. Let’s take a look through each series of the first round, and I will show you what I mean.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Vancouver Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings- The Canucks have a great goaltender. Ever since I can remember I’ve liked Roberto Luongo (VAN), but he doesn’t really pull through in the playoffs. I knew the Kings would win, not only because they had All-Star goaltender Jonathan Quick (LA), but the goaltender situation in Vancouver (the switching Luongo and Schneider) was dicey. Cory Schneider is a good goalie, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just if he would have started the series, they might have had a shot.

St. Louis Blues vs San Jose Sharks- The All-Star goalie Brian Elliot (STL) has been phenomenal this year and refuses to stop. He is a terrific goaltender and he definitely outplayed San Jose. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Antti Niemi (SJ) in net, wonderful net minder, but he just didn’t have the juice to carry the Sharks through to the second round, especially not over a flaming hot Blues. Ken Hitchcock has been tremendous and I think he is going to win the Adams Award.

Phoenix Coyotes vs Chicago Blackhawks- The best goalie won this series for sure. Mike Smith has been great all year and is able to carry himself in the playoffs. Now Cory Crawford, I think, didn’t deserve half the wins that Chicago had. Not to solely blame the goaltender, but when you are facing elimination, how do you lose 4-0? I think that should have been the only game that went into overtime.

Nashville Predators vs Detroit Red Wings- Not much else to say about Pekka Rinne(NAS). I’ve done so many stories with him in it, I’m running dry on things to say. He is a great player. Definitely going to reach the Hall of Fame, there is no doubt in my mind. I just wish he didn’t have to make my Detroit Red Wings look like an OHL team. At the end of the series, they showed a statistic that blew my mind. Rinne had faced 160 Red Wings shots in 5 games. He stopped 151 of those shots. That is an amazing number, and he deserves it. Jimmy Howard (DET) played alright, but in the end lost it because of defensive end turnovers that turned into goals, which he couldn’t have stopped in a million years. He’s a great fit for Detroit, but not against Nashville.

Check back in Wednesday to see my Eastern Conference Goalie talk.

Tags: Chicago Blackhawks Detroit Red Wings Los Angeles Kings Nashville Predators Phoenix Coyotes San Jose Sharks St.Louis Blues Stanley Cup Vancouver Canucks