by Ryan Isley
As the NHL playoffs have gotten underway, it is evident that we are going to see some great games by the goaltenders as usual. Most times when a team has a hot goaltender, the coach and fans will ride that goaltender harder than a Kardashian rides an NBA player.
The fans of the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers are hoping that they have that goaltender.
Earlier this week, we saw two of the better playoff performances you will see from Jonathan Quick of the Kings on Sunday and then Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers on Monday as both goaltenders led their teams to 1-0 wins in the third game of their best-of0seven series in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is not meant as disrespect to Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins – the other goaltender with a 1-0 win in the playoffs so far – but Thomas faced just 17 shots on goal while Quick and Lundqvist faced 41 and 39 shots.
The game from Quick was nothing short of fantastic, as the No.8 seed Kings were trying to go up three games to none on the Vancouver Canucks – the top-seeded team in the NHL. The Kings had taken games one and two in Vancouver, where Quick had allowed just two goals in each game – both 4-2 wins for the Kings.
While Quick was good in those first two games, he was great in game three. Quick – who had a Kings-record 10 shutouts in the regular season – turned away all 41 shots that the Canucks could throw at him and handed the Canucks just their fourth shutout of the season. It wasn’t just the 41 saves that made the game impressive for Quick, either. Part of what made this such a great game to watch was that Quick was facing shots from every angle and in every conceivable fashion, yet he never conceded.
The other thing that made what Quick did even more impressive is that he had to do it while his team was not able to score either. Quick kept making save after save and buying time for his offense to break through, which they did when Dustin Brown scored with 13:30 left in the game.
As great as Quick was, Lundqvist may have been better less than 24 hours later.
With the No.1 seed Rangers and the No.8 seed Ottawa Senators tied at one game apiece in their best-of-seven series, they needed the Vezina Trophy frontrunner to step up and play like a goaltender who deserves that award. Lundqvist did that and then some. Lundqvist bounced back from giving up three goals in a game two overtime loss to shut the Senators offense down and allow the Rangers to take back the advantage in the series.
It would have been easy for Lundqvist to get frustrated that the first two goals he allowed in game two were not really his fault as one was put in by his own player and another was a misplayed puck by his defense. It also would have been easy for Lundqvist to remember back to last season’s playoffs, when he was 1-4, yet allowed just 2.26 goals per game but his offense was only able to give him 1.4 goals per game of support. Add in that some Rangers fans have questioned Lundqvist’s ability to come up big in the clutch, and it could have gotten ugly for the Rangers goaltender.
Instead of being deflated and allowing it to bother him, Lundqvist came out and dominated game three.
Like Quick, Lundqvist had to continue to make stops while his offense was sputtering against the opposing goaltender – Ottawa’s Craig Anderson – who was making highlight saves of his own. Lundqvist was able to hold off the Senators long enough for the Rangers to finally score on a Brian Boyle goal with 12:25 remaining in the game despite most of the third period being played in the Ottawa offensive zone.
Lundqvist may have reminded Rangers fans of Mike Richter in 1994 with some of the saves he made Monday night, as most of them were not easy – or at least not made to look easy by Lundqvist. The 30-year-old Swede was everywhere in net on Monday night, sliding from side to side, going high, going low and using every inch of his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame to stop pucks from going in the net.
Not only was Lundqvust’s performance huge on Monday night, but it might have an impact on how the rest of this series plays out. By shutting out the fourth-best scoring team in the NHL, Lundqvist gave the Rangers a must-needed 2-1 lead in the series and guaranteed that the team would not have their backs up against the wall in game four – something that may allow them to not be uptight and actually play better.
While giving his team a 3-0 lead over the top overall seed was a huge deal for Quick, Lundqvist giving his team the series lead and taking back the home ice advantage may turn out to be the biggest development from either of those game threes.
Either way – Quick and Lundqvist gave their teams and fans exactly what they needed. Now if one of them can keep it up, they may be holding the Stanley Cup when all is said and done.
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