Strong goaltending will play a crucial role in the first-round matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and both teams have relied on their two netminders to guard the twine this season.
Avs netminders Philipp Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov split time in net during 2018-19, as the two goalies helped Colorado to a 38-30-14 record and a postseason berth for the second year in a row.
Varlamov finished the campaign with more starts among the two Avalanche stoppers, and Grubauer wrapped up the year as one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL. Both keepers were pivotal factors in Colorado's overall performance, making spectacular saves and winning key games throughout the 82 regular-season outings.
Calgary's goaltenders feature veteran Mike Smith and NHL sophomore David Rittich. They appeared in nearly the same amount of contests during the season, as Smith played in 45 games and Rittich protected the crease in 42 contests.
Here's a look at the netminders that will be guarding the pipes in the Round 1 series.
Colorado: Philipp Grubauer
Grubauer, who was acquired from the Washington Capitals along with Brooks Orpik by the Avalanche in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on June 22, posted an 18-9-5 record through 37 games (33 starts) this season. His 18 wins and 37 appearances are career highs for the goaltender, who also tied his personal best with three shutouts. The three whitewashes all came in a five-start span (Feb. 23 to March 17), joining Patrick Roy as the only goalies in franchise history to achieve that accomplishment.
Beginning in March, the Rosenheim, Germany, native was crucial in the Avs' playoff push and started in a career-high eight consecutive contests. In the month, he posted a .955 save percentage and 1.48 goals-against average, which both ranked second in the NHL for March. He earned the NHL's Third Star for the week of March 18-24 as he topped the NHL with 149 saves (on 155 SA), compiling a 3-0-1 record, 1.49 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in the seven-day stretch. In his final nine starts of the season, Grubauer posted a 7-0-2 record, 1.63 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.
Grubauer started two games in last year's postseason and won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals.
Colorado: Semyon Varlamov
Varlamov completed his eighth regular-season campaign with the Avs and generated a 20-19-9 record through 49 starts. The netminder recorded a 2.87 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and two shutout victories during the year. It was Varlamov's sixth 20-win season, second only to Patrick Roy (eight) in franchise history.
In October, the Samara, Russia, native led the NHL with a .950 save percentage and was second with a 1.62 goals-against average, setting Avalanche records for both of those marks for the month. He earned the NHL's First Star for the week of Feb. 18-24 when he won three-straight contests and posted a 1.34 goals-against average, .964 save percentage and his 25th career shutout.
Varlamov has played in 26 career playoff outings, registering a 13-13 record to go along with a 2.57 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
Calgary: David Rittich
In his second full season with the Flames, Rittich led the team with 27 wins (27-9-5) through 45 appearances (42 starts). The Czech goaltender also posted a 2.61 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season, and he stopped 21-of-21 shots to earn his first career NHL shutout on Nov. 10. Signed as a free agent on June 10, 2016, Rittich has a 3-1-0 career record against Colorado.
This will be the netminder's first playoff experience and he is entering the postseason with five wins in his last seven regular-season games (5-0-2).
Calgary: Mike Smith
Smith is in his second year with the Flames after joining the club in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on June 17, 2017. The NHL veteran generated a 23-16-2 mark through 42 appearances this campaign, producing a 2.73 goals-against average and .898 save percentage. Smith notched two shutout wins this season and tied his own record for the most saves in a clean slate by a Flames goalie on Oct. 9 when he made 43 stops.
The Kingston, Ontario, native started in six of Calgary's final nines contests, posting a 4-2-0 record with a .914 save percentage and 1.85 goal-against average. Smith has played in 19 career postseason games, recording a 10-8 record with a 1.88 goals-against average and .945 save percentage.