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Trending: Goalies take center stage in 2012 Playoffs

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 10:28 AM / NHL.Countdown

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Trending: Goalies take center stage in 2012 Playoffs
Western conference goalies have dominated this week's playoff hockey discussion.

It's about goaltending in the third playoff edition of Trending this Week, with thoughts on Mike Smith, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. The list of hot topics also includes Claude Giroux's new title, Chris Kreider's big moment, and Boston's heart-and-soul player.

#SmithSizzles

There have been some stellar goaltending performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far, but Phoenix's Mike Smith authored the best one Monday to lift the Coyotes into the second round for the first time since the franchise moved to the desert in 1996.
 
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 4-2-0
GAA: 1.81 | SVP: 0.950
Smith stole Game 6 with a 39-save shutout for a 4-0 win. He allowed two goals in Game 1, four on 50 shots in Game 2, and two each in Games 3, 4 and 5 before robbing the Blackhawks of an opportunity to push the series back to Phoenix for a Game 7 with a sterling performance in the clinching game.
 
The Coyotes goaltending situation looked grim after this past season because they knew Ilya Bryzgalov was leaving and there weren't too many gems available on the open market. General manager Don Maloney signed Smith to a two-year, $4 million contract that looked like a reach considering Smith had never played in more than 42 games and never won more than 14. He played in only 22 games the previous season for Tampa Bay.
 
The contract, though, looks like one of the best bargains in the NHL right now. Backed by the goalie coaching of Sean Burke, Smith won 38 games in the regular season and was the NHL's Player of the Month in February. He threw the Coyotes on his back Monday to lift them into the second round for the first time.

#WillThereBeGoals?

What's the over/under on the amount of goals scored in the Western Conference Semifinals? Whatever it is, take the under.
 
Smith, Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick and the combination of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak should give the remaining Western Conference goal scorers nightmares because it really is scary to think about how good the goaltending can be in the matchups between Nashville and Phoenix, and Los Angeles and St. Louis.
 
You're looking at five goaltenders ranked in the top seven in goals-against average and save percentage so far in these playoffs. Of these five goalies in the regular season, Rinne had the highest GAA and lowest save percentage. His numbers were 2.39 and .923 -- hardly pedestrian.
 
The Coyotes, Predators, Kings and Blues are the top four teams in goals-against per game in the playoffs thus far. The Rangers are tied for fourth with Phoenix at 2.00, but they also have a pretty darn good goalie in Henrik Lundqvist.
 
If you want to say it's also about great defense that's fine, but the Chicago peppered Smith with 40.4 shots on goal per game. Smith gave up just 12 goals on 241 shots against.
 
Vancouver tested Quick with 34.4 shots on goal per game; he stopped all but eight of the 172 shots he faced.
 
Detroit got 32 shots on goal per game on Rinne, who stopped 151 of 160 shots in the five-game series victory.
 
Elliott and Halak combined to give up eight goals on 144 shots in the five-game series win against San Jose.
 
So, yeah, take the under.

#CanucksGoalies

Now that the Canucks are out of the playoffs, the story in Vancouver becomes all about goaltending. When isn't it?
 
Retaining both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider might prove to be impossible with Schneider eligible for restricted free agency this summer and Luongo still carrying 10 years on a contract that calls for a $5.33 million cap hit according to capgeek.com.
 
Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 0-2-0
GAA: 3.59 | SVP: 0.891
Luongo's contract is a difficult one to move in today's cap world, but not impossible. Jeff Carter's 11-year, $58 million contract was moved twice. Mike Richards was also traded despite having nine years left on a 12-year, $69 million contract he signed.
 
But, Luongo also reportedly has a full no-trade clause. He's also 33 years old and coming off a season in which he looked vulnerable at times despite a 2.41 GAA and .919 save percentage. He is a commodity for teams such as Toronto and Tampa Bay that will probably be looking for goaltending help, but you have to wonder if Luongo wants to move from one pressure cooker in Vancouver to another in Toronto.
 
Tampa Bay seems like an interesting fit, but the feeling there is that general manager Steve Yzerman covets Schneider, who might not be available.
 
Schneider started the final three games of the series against L.A. He was not the reason the Canucks lost.
 
Schneider, 26, had a .960 save percentage (97 saves on 101 shots) and a 1.31 goals-against average. He showed in that short span that he can handle the pressure of being a No. 1 in the playoffs.

#Brodeur'sNet

With New Jersey facing elimination Tuesday against Florida (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), the stories are starting to come out about this possibly being Martin Brodeur's final game in a Devils uniform and perhaps his final game in the NHL. It's hard to believe either scenario comes true even if the Devils do lose to Florida.
 
Brodeur is not the same goalie he was even three seasons ago, when he won 45 games and had a 2.24 goals-against average. However, at 39 years old (40 on May 6) Brodeur is still a solid, capable No. 1 goalie.
 
Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 2-2-0
GAA: 2.32 | SVP: 0.916
He was one of only 17 goalies to win at least 30 games in the regular season. He was one of 15 goalies to start at least 59 games. He had a 2.41 GAA, which was better than that of Antti Niemi, Niklas Backstrom, Carey Price, Ilya Bryzgalov and Ryan Miller.
 
Moreover, the Devils don't have anybody capable of taking over as the No. 1 goalie.
 
Brodeur's backup, Johan Hedberg, will be 39 on May 5. He's also an unrestricted free agent after the season.
 
New Jersey's top goalie prospect is Scott Wedgewood, who is only 19 years old and just finished his junior career with the Plymouth Whalers. Wedgewood signed his entry-level contract, but he's probably a year or two away from being ready to be a No. 1.
 
Jeff Frazee and Keith Kinkaid are in the system, but neither has shown enough to be considered a viable No. 1 candidate at the NHL level. They've even struggled to do it at the American Hockey League level.
 
Maxime Clermont is another prospect, but it's highly unlikely that he jumps from the ECHL to the NHL in one year.
 
So, that takes us back to Brodeur and the question that should be asked: Can the Devils afford to let him go to another team or into retirement?
 
The answer seems like a flat-out no.

#BestInTheWorld

Peter Laviolette did not mince words after the Flyers 5-1 series-clinching win Sunday against Pittsburgh. In answering a reporter's question about Claude Giroux's leadership, Laviolette used the words "the best player in the world" to describe the Flyers' All-Star center who finished third in the NHL in scoring with 93 points and is first in the League with 14 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
Go ahead and try to argue Laviolette's point on Giroux. It's hard to do after watching him dazzle against the Penguins.
 
Giroux outplayed both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the main headliners in the best-player-in-the-world discussion. He had 14 points; Malkin and Crosby combined for 15. Giroux had a six-point Game 2. He had a three-point Game 6.
 
Prior to Game 6, Giroux went to Laviolette and asked to start the game because he wanted the first shift. He then he told his teammates to watch him because something special was going to happen.
 
It did.
 
He drilled Crosby with a hard hit six seconds into the game and 26 seconds later gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
 
The Flyers had the best player on the ice in the series. Is Giroux the best in the world? He has to be in the discussion.

#KidKreider

The Rangers and coach John Tortorella deserve credit for seeing enough in Chris Kreider to put him into the lineup in this series against Ottawa. It was a gutsy move to trust Kreider, who was coming straight out of Boston College, straight out of the Frozen Four, to be one of their 12 forwards in what is obviously such a physical, tough, and fast playoff series that is now going the distance.
 
Kreider rewarded that trust by coming through with the game-winning goal Tuesday in Game 6 at Scotiabank Place, a 3-2 Rangers victory. Derek Stepan found him with a cross-ice diagonal pass and Kreider hammered his shot past Craig Anderson from the left circle to finish off a three-goal barrage during the final 11:05 of the second period.
 
Kreider played more than 11 minutes in Game 3, which was his NHL debut. He spent a lot of that time with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, but they were largely ineffective.
 
His minutes decreased to just 3:29 in Game 4 largely because there were a combined 12 power plays in the game between the Senators and Rangers and Tortorella isn't about to put Kreider on any of his special-teams units. He bumped up to 7:34 in Game 5, but he was pretty much hidden in the lineup.
 
Game 6 was a different story.
 
Kreider was on the second line with captain Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan. He played 19 shifts and kept them short, to an average of 34 seconds, for a total ice time of 10:46. But, these were hard, effective minutes. He contributed on the forecheck, in the offensive zone, and of course on the scoresheet with his goal that came with 40.3 seconds left in the second period.

#Bergie

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has guts, heart, character -- all of the above. He put it all on display Sunday in Washington.
 
Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron
Center - BOS
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 16 | +/-: 0
Bergeron, a finalist for the Selke Trophy this season, was playing injured after taking hits from Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin in Game 5, but he still had an assist and four shots on goal while playing his usual excellent brand of two-way hockey during 19 minutes and 41 seconds of ice time in the Bruins' 4-3 overtime win to force Game 7 at TD Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
 
It was reported that Bergeron had a broken nose and another upper-body injury, perhaps to his shoulder or arm, but he was only limited in faceoffs. Normally a guy that takes at least 20 draws per game, Bergeron took only one Sunday.
 
Of course, it was a big one in the Bruins' defensive zone after an icing with 1:02 remaining in regulation. Of course, Bergeron won it from Marcus Johansson.
 
Don't be surprised if Bergeron is Boston's Game 7 hero. Remember, he scored two goals, including one shorthanded, and was a plus-4 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final this past June. Plus, he hasn't scored a goal yet against the Capitals, so you can say he's due.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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