Both the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers are somewhat unexpected participants of the Eastern Conference Finals considering they entered the playoffs as the fourth and fifth best teams in the East.
That both these teams have reached this point proves that goaltending is the most vital position when going after a Stanley Cup.
Max Pacioretty and Rick Nash were the leading goal scorers for their team during the regular season and neither of them have scored more than three goals this postseason. For both these teams offensive star power has not been the key to success.
The best player for both of these teams this post season has been the man between the pipes. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price have put up stellar numbers this post season with goals against averages of 1.99 and 2.15 and save percentages of .931 and .926. However, these stats do not tell the whole story.
Neither of these teams have shown they can overcome a bad outing from their goalie and still come out with a win. In the second round of the playoffs neither team managed to win a game with their goalie giving more than three goals.
Especially with such a tough opposing goalie neither Price nor Lundqvist can afford to have a bad game as the rest of their teams have not shown the kind of offensive dominance that can make up for it.
It may not be necessary for Price and Lundqvist to be absolutely spectacular in every single game, but this matchup leaves very little room for error on both sides. The Canadiens’ power play did show the ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Unfortunately for them it may become much less reliable against the Rangers who gave up one lone power play goal in a seven game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This goaltending matchup should wind up with low scoring games and one bad goal could be the difference in not just the game, but the whole series.
While offensive stars have lacked the ability to take over games for both these teams, both goalies have proven that on any given night they can take over a game. Both goalies have had to face unbelievable amounts of pressure from the opposing team and have come through with wins. In game one against the Boston Bruins Price faced 51 shots and still made spectacular saves one after another to get the Canadiens the overtime win. Lundqvist never faced as much of a barrage as Price did in that game. However, in three of the four wins against the Penguins Lundqvist faced 36 or more shots and gave up no more than two goals.
Both these goalies have been each team’s best player and have been consistently dominant with flashes of brilliance. Neither of these teams can win without a stellar performance from their goalie, and whichever goalie has the better series should find their team in the Stanley Cup Finals.