Goaltending to be a major factor in Eastern Conference Finals
If you are the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, you can easily check that off your lis. It is good goaltending that helped get the two clubs to the Eastern Conference Finals, which begins Saturday afternoon in Montreal at the Bell Centre.
It can be said that these two netminders have been the best at their position this postseason. In Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price, the Rangers and Canadiens, respectively, have masked men that have done it all for their hockey clubs in the playoffs this year and have their respective clubs four wins away from getting to the Cup Final.
Without the strong play of Lundqvist, it is hard to imagine the Blueshirts having come this far. With his team down 3-1 in their second round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lundqvist put the team on his back and showed them why he was one of the best netminders in the game.
In winning three straight games to overcome a two game deficit and win the series, the "King" stopped 102 of 105 shots to help his club complete the comeback. He made the big saves when he needed to, he kept the Penguins at bay while the team in front of him was under siege and more importantly, he was his team's best player when they needed him to be.
In 14 games this postseason, Lundqvist is 8-6 with a 1.99 goals against average (second in the league), and a .931 save percentage (first in the league). Lundqvist also leads the league with 362 saves in these playoffs.
At the other end, Price has been just as good as Lundqvist this postseason. Not only did he help make quick work of the Tampa Bay Lightning in a first round sweep, but he helped avenge the Canadiens' s Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins back in 2011 by returning the favor and winning Game 7 in Boston last night.
With his team facing elimination in Game 6 a few nights ago, Price gave his team exactly the kind of goaltending they needed and for the Habs, that was perfect. Price stopped all 26 shots he faced in a 4-0 shutout win to help his team even the series.
Last night, Price was even better for his hockey club. He stopped 29 of 30 shots to help his team advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Price's calm demeanor, poise between the pipes, maturity, and confidence is perhaps the main reason why the Canadiens have an opportunity to get to the Cup Final. Price has come a long way since first joining the Habs and now, is in a good position to accomplish something great between the pipes for this storied franchise.
There is no doubt that this series is going to be decided by the goaltenders and when it comes to the Cup tournament, there is nothing better than seeing two of the league's best netminders compete for a chance to play for hockey's Holy Grail.