Mike Smith has been one of the standout performers in the playoffs. Ross D. Franklin/AP
Show me a good coach, and I’ll show you a good goaltender.
You build your team from the net out.
The mantras regarding the importance of solid goaltending in the NHL are endless. The reason is simple: they’re true, and in the playoffs they are magnified 10-fold.
On top of that, great performances by the men with the masks can be a joy to watch.
Fans were spoiled in the opening round when Pittsburgh and Philadelphia treated them to 56 goals in six games of barn-burning action.
That was fascinating to watch, unless you are a Penguins fan—and especially if you’re Marc-Andre Fleury.
But epic goaltending battles, just like an incredible pitching duel in baseball, can captivate audiences just as well, often times more so.
With the Western Conference match-up between the LA Kings and Phoenix Coyotes featuring Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith between the pipes, goals will be at a premium.
Quick, a Vezina finalist, heads into the series with an astonishing 1.55 goals against average (GAA), .949 save percentage, along with one shutout in the postseason so far.
His adversary, meanwhile, has led the ‘Yotes to their deepest playoff run in franchise history. Smith has compiled a 1.77 GAA and .948 save percentage to go along with two shutouts of his own.
Doing its best not to be left out of the party, the Eastern Conference will feature legendary netminder Martin Brodeur on one side, and either superstar Henrik Lundqvist or young sensation Braden Holtby.
Regardless of who manages to join the New Jersey Devils by winning on Saturday night, one thing is certain: the goaltending battle will be one of the highlights of the series.
While Brodeur is no longer the goaltender he once was, his experience in big-game situations will certainly be an asset, as he has proven on numerous occasions that he can win when it counts.
In both conferences, the performances in the crease will be one of the major talking points.
Unlike in the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series, expect it to be for all the right reasons.