The Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us and excitement is definitely in the air.
Some teams battled until the last day of the NHL season to make the playoffs, while players like Alex Ovechin, Sidney Crosby, and Henrik Sedin scraped to win individual award such as the Art Ross (top overall scoring leader) and the Rocket Richard (top goal scorer) trophies.
The NHL brain trust did an excellent job this year keeping the fans interested.
As the 16 teams head into the playoff rounds, the success of the NHL to create parity around the league is evident. There is no surety that any one team will emerge victorious in this year's playoffs.
One of the key factors in determining which team will hoist the Stanley Cup is goaltending.
In previous cup playoffs a goaltender that somehow comes up flat can cost their team the Stanley Cup. It doesn't matter how potent the team is in every other category.
In the 1970s, the Boston Bruins, featuring a star studded lineup including Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Johhny Bucyk, and others, were upset by the superb goaltending of Montreal Canadiens rookie Ken Dryden.
A few seasons later, the Philadelphia Flyers' Bernie Parent denied the Bruins again.
If the Bruins came out on top of those series, they would have gone down in the record books as a dynasty which they should have.
Goaltending was the difference.
In the 1980s, Billy Smith and the New York Islanders defiantly denied the Edmonton Oilers a Stanley Cup that they were sure their high-octane offense would provide them.
In the 1990s, the Oilers relied on Grant Fuhr to make key saves at critical points in playoff games. If he wasn’t successful, the Oilers would not have achieved their status as one of the NHL’s legendary squads.
The Detroit Red Wings were named the top NHL team of the last decade by the Sporting News, but Detroit fans know they could have won several other Stanley Cups if not for goaltending.
Here is my Power Ranking of the goaltenders expected to start in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
One thing is for certain: The team with the best goaltending will have their name engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup.