While the poor goaltending performances have packed their bags for home, the best netminders created some of the best hockey and entertainment in the first round. The best tend to show up in Game 7, and that was no different here.
The honorable mention is out of New York. The Islanders goaltender, Thomas Greiss, displayed a masterclass through six games. He made 45 high-danger saves while being one of the busiest. 33.32 shots against per 60 was among the top five in the first round. Despite his lack of experience in the postseason, Greiss displayed brilliance.
3 Stars of the Round (Goalies Only)
While Vezina voting is only for regular season performances, the playoffs call for a special brand of goaltending. Scoring is typically down as the best goalies bring their A-game. These three brought more than just that.
He was eliminated in a seventh game, but Corey Crawford deserves praise for his efforts. His 45 high-danger saves at evens were tied for the most among goalies. His performance in game 6 was laudable, as well. He seemed to take an upper body injury in the second period, but that didn’t stop him from making 15 saves over the final two frames. And among goalies that started their entire series, Crawford had the third best high-danger save percentage.
What a rumble this series was. The Blackhawks battled back to make Blues fans sweat, but the difference was ultimately the goaltending. Brian Elliot was the busier of the two but also the better. At even strength, the Blackhawks outshot the Blues 207-174, however, the Blues outscored Chicago 5v5 13-10. Elliot owned his crease throughout the series. With questions of a platoon, Elliot emphatically answered who St. Louis’ number one goalie is. A .929 save percentage and 2.40 GAA are solid first round numbers.
Yikes. This guy knows how to show up in the postseason. He bookended the series with shutouts, his GAA was under 1 (0.84) and his save percentage was an insane .968. Holtby only allowed one power play goal leading the Caps to a 23-for-24 PK rate in the first round. But really, it doesn’t matter what stat we look up. Holtby leads or is near the top in all of them. The obvious front-runner for the Vezina, he would win it again if there was one given out for the first round.
Conn Smythe Already?
If Holtby manages to finally capture a Cup for the Capitals, will he deserve the Conn Smythe? Right now, it would be hard to argue against it. It is still an arduous climb to the Stanley Cup Final, but with a brick wall like Holtby, the Capitals are a tough out.
Kenneth is a graduate of the University of San Francisco in Politics and Chemistry. But his passion in life has always been hockey. He has played since he was four and even coached a few teams. Kenneth writes for the San Jose Sharks at thehockeywriters.com