The Top Five Goalies in the Western Conference
Who's ready to make a run at Lord Stanley?
In Basketball, if a guy is in the midst of lighting up your team, you call a timeout and make the decision to double or even triple team him. Problem solved. In Baseball, if a guy is hitting .400 with a ton of home runs, you simply don’t pitch to him; you don’t let him beat you. In football, you can design blocking schemes or employ the aforementioned double teams to make sure one guy on either side of the field can’t take control of the game.
In Hockey, however, there exists the unique situation where one man can simply choose to beat an entire team. No game plan or scheme can stop him, and all you can hope for is that eventually he’ll come back down from the clouds.
The goalie’s ability to take over a game might be the single aspect of the NHL playoffs that makes it the most exciting postseason in sports. Hot goalies can make a #1 seed that has dominated all season quiver in their skates or give fans of the #8 seed hope of beating Goliath. Just last year we saw eighth seed Los Angeles Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick catch fire at the perfect time and lead the team on an amazing run that culminated in them winning the Stanley Cup.
In fact thanks to the men between the pipes, the big upset in the playoffs is more common in hockey than any other sport. Here are five guys in the Western Conference that could throw a franchise on their back and take em the distance.
Sergei Bobrovsky is determined to get Columbus into the postseason
5. Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky is single handedly trying to drag the Columbus Blue Jackets kicking and screaming into the playoffs. He’s second in the league in save percentage (.931), fifth in GAA (2.03), and if he can muscle past the Detroit Red Wings and into the postseason, you know he’ll be hungry for some payback against the top seed Chicago Blackhawks who’ve swept the season series.
Can Antti Niemi win a second Cup in three years?
4. Antti Niemi
Niemi might very well be the most consistent goalie on this list. He’s tied for the league lead in victories with 22, and is fifth in the league with a .926 save percentage. He knows what it takes to win it all as he won the Cup in 2010 with the Hawk,s and he has won ten of his last 13 down the stretch to put the San Jose Sharks in position to grab the 4th seed and a home playoff series.
Can Jonathan Quick rediscover the Magic that won him the Cup last year?
3. Jonathan Quick
The Kings' net minder is at number three on the list simply because of his track record. He’s winning half of his starts, and his 2.48 GAA is nothing special, however his improbable run to the championship last year gives him a ton of street cred. Due to LA’s "puck possession" style of play, Quick has only had to face 30 shots once in the last 22 games. So if they get up on you early, chances are you won't be able to get even.
Corey Crawford has put his team in position to be the overall #1 seed
2. Corey Crawford
This is really more like 1a, however there are rules to be followed and so I’ll put him second. The Hawks' starting goalie has lead his team to a mind boggling 70 points in only 42 games and anchored a league leading defense that has only given up 87 goals. Every single game he’s played in has been a playoff atmosphere, and his 1.92 GAA ensures the Hawks that they’ll grab a point in the standings if they can just score twice.
Will Ray Emery have the opportunity to help Chicago win the Cup?
1. Ray Emery
Emery has been nothing short of brilliant for Chicago this season in relief of Corey Crawford. His 16-1-0 record gives him by far the best win percentage in hockey, and his 1.91 GAA is second only to the Ottawa Senators' Craig Anderson. He’s got a proven track record in the playoffs having taken Ottawa to the finals in 2006-07, and if Chicago weren't so incredibly stacked at goalie, he’d lead the league in wins by a long shot.
There's only one question mark about Emery: will the best goalie in the Western Conference even start come playoff time?