A hot goaltender can take a mediocre team and turn them into a Stanley Cup champion. That maxim is no different in the NHL Playoffs 2013.
The playoffs feature a number of excellent goaltenders, all with the potential to get hot and carry a team through multiple series.
If a goalie is hot entering the playoffs, like Tuukka Rask, Brian Elliott or Henrik Lundqvist, then they can hit the ground running. A goalie that's struggling, like Roberto Luongo, will have a harder time turning it around when they are on the biggest stage.
Who is the best goaltender in the playoffs? Which goalie has the best chance to lead their team to multiple series victories?
Read on to find out.
1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask has been absolutely spectacular this season and should be considered for the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.
In 35 games, Rask has a minuscule 1.97 goals against average and a sterling .930 save percentage.
In the month of April, Rask has been great, with a 1.81 goals against average and a .946 save percentage. That bodes well for the Bruins. He's entering the postseason hot and possesses the ability to steal multiple games.
Quite simply, there's been no better goaltender in the league this season. Rask has flourished in his first full season as a starter. He's technically sound and also has the ability to make flashy saves.
Rask will carry the Bruins very far. He's the best goaltender in the playoffs, and his play will help the Bruins reach at least the Eastern Conference Finals, if not beyond.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has had another terrific season for the Rangers. Lundqvist has a 2.05 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage.
In April, where the Rangers had to climb their way up the standings in order to secure a playoff spot, Lundqvist was at his best. He sported a .934 save percentage en route to a 10-3-1 record.
The Rangers went to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and a big reason why was the play of Lundqvist. He posted a 1.82 goals against average and a .931 save percentage, along with 10 wins.
Despite the fact that the Rangers have had an up-and-down season, they will be a tough out in the postseason because of Lundqvist. Time and time again, Lundqvist steals games, and, if it wasn't for him, the Rangers would not be in the playoffs.
No team wants to face the Rangers, because no team wants to face Lundqvist. For the past five years, he's been one of the best goalies in the league. This year is no different, and it gives the Rangers a legitimate chance to make a deep run in the playoffs.
3. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have a high-powered offense, but what has driven them to the best record in the league has been the play of Corey Crawford. Crawford has a 1.94 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage.
Chicago plays a wide-open style, which helps them score 3.1 goals-per-game—second-best in the league. But without the play of Crawford, the Blackhawks would be like the Tampa Bay Lightning—a team that scores a little over three goals per game but allows 3.06 goals per game, which was ranked 26th in the league.
Crawford gives the Blackhawks the strength to play their open system. He makes key saves and is never out of position.
He has great players in front of him, but Crawford deserves a lot of praise. He's been fantastic and will help the Blackhawks go far in the postseason, perhaps even all the way.
4. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Antti Niemi is not the biggest name, but he's a solid, if not spectacular, goaltender.
He has a 2.16 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. The Sharks, who posted a 2-4-4 record in February, have rebounded and played really good hockey in March and April.
A lot of that has been due to the play of Niemi. He had three shutouts in the last two months and a .922 save percentage in April.
Niemi has a Stanley Cup title under his belt, something that only two other goalies can boast. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done and has proven his mettle in the postseason.
Like the Rangers, the Sharks have had an up-and-down season. They've played better of late, and without Niemi, there is absolutely no way the Sharks would be in the playoffs.
Niemi can steal games, even series, and gives the Sharks a chance to make a pretty deep run in the playoffs.
5. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliott is one of the hottest goaltenders in the league. He finished the season with an 11-2 record, with a 1.28 goals against average and an incredible .948 save percentage.
On the season, Elliott has a 2.28 goals against average and a .907 save percentage, along with three shutouts.
With a stellar defense in front of him, Elliott has a chance to take the Blues really far. He's on fire right now and has stolen multiple games already for the Blues.
If he takes that into the playoffs, then teams should watch out for the Blues. They have top scorers in Chris Stewart and David Backes, and their defense, which was bolstered by trade-deadline acquisitions Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester, is superb.
Elliott is playing great, and by the end of the playoffs, he could be on the top of this list.