The Stanley Cup playoffs are a time where storylines are made and careers are defined. The post season is a time where battle tested veterans are looked to to guide their teams through the vigorous playoff grind and a time where a young stud can burst onto the scene and carry his team to a title.
The Eastern and Western Conference final have brought both storylines to the forefront with the guys standing between the pipes. In the west, you have Corey Crawford between the pipes for the Chicago Blackhawks with Frederik Andersen at the other end of the ice manning the crease for the Anaheim Ducks. On the other coast, Henrik Lundqvist has anchored the New York Rangers with Ben Bishop doing the same for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In both series there is the established name who has been here before and has a history of winning, paired up with an up-and-comer trying to make a name for himself and upset one of the league’s best goalies.
1. The Old Dogs
Between Crawford and Lundqvist, there are 888 regular season games played, 172 post season starts, one Stanley Cup ring, one Olympic gold medal and one Vezina Trophy. These two have been around the block not once, not twice but maybe three of four times.
At the moment, both Crawford and Lundqvist are the creme of the crop in the NHL. But the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” might be true in the case of this year’s playoffs as both established goalies are in the midst of a heated battle with some young studs trying to take their throne.
Lundqvist has grabbed a .926 save percentage and 2.12 goals against average through 15 games this post season, while Crawford has moved to a .925 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average in nine games. Both have put up numbers good enough to get their respective teams this far in the playoffs, but when they look down the ice, the goalies staring back at them are putting up just as good if not better numbers.
2. The New Guys
At age 25, the Ducks’ Andersen is by far the youngest of the group. Andersen has played in only 82 regular season and 18 post season games. Yet Andersen has marched to a 9-2 record during these playoffs with a .933 save percentage and 1.81 goals against average, the best of the four remaining goalies. If the Ducks were a bit luckier and buried one of their three post shots in extra time of game two against the Blackhawks, Andersen could be 10-1 and still undefeated at home during these playoffs.
In the East, Bishop is very much trying to dethrone a “King”. Although Bishop is 28-years-old he has never been a regular in the NHL until the last two seasons with the Lightning, and is in the middle of his first playoff run at the NHL level.
Bishop and Lundqvist have been on a bit of a roller coaster so far during the Eastern Conference final. After a tight game one that saw the Rangers win 2-1, there have been 19 goals scored in two games and on the heels of a 6-5 overtime victory in game three, the Lightning have a 2-1 series lead. Bishop and Lundqvist have both been shaky, but to this point Lundqvist has been worse and trails in the series because of it.
This could be the beginning of a change of the guard in the NHL. Anderesen is in the middle of establishing himself as one of the NHL’s youngest premier goalies and Bishop is only two games away from becoming the King Slayer. At the end of this round, two new names could be battling it out for NHL supremacy.