Ranking the Best Saves of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs
With the Stanley Cup Final featuring two of the NHL's top goaltenders in the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist and Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick, it's only fitting to take a look at some of the greatest saves—made by them and others—from the 2014 playoffs.
There have been plenty to choose from, and ranking them is next to impossible. Some may prefer the flashy glove stops, while others enjoy the quick jab of a blocker. The old-school stacked pads bring a nostalgic feeling to the mix, but a butterfly-era sliding-split save looks both painful and impressive.
Other things to consider include the time of the game, the score, the play leading up to the stop and whether the goaltender's team is up in the series or fighting to come back.
You may not agree with the order, and could probably add another dozen possibilities to this list, but I put forth for your discussion my top 10 saves of the NHL playoffs so far.
Honourable Mention: Bryzgalov Is Sharp on Breakaway Stop
Ryan Suter doesn't often make big mistakes, but the Minnesota Wild defenseman coughed up the puck at a terrible time in Game 4 of the Wild's second-round series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wild were down 2-1 in the series and clinging to a 3-2 lead in the contest. If Patrick Sharp scored, the game would be tied and momentum swings after the defensively stifling Wild gave up fewer than 10 shots over the first half of the game.
A somewhat bored Ilya Bryzgalov was up to the challenge, planting his left skate and launching himself across the crease to get the tip of his right pad on Sharp's attempted deke to preserve the lead.
The Wild went on to win the game and even the series.
10. Mason Spoils McDonagh's Effort
New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh picked up a loose puck after a Philadelphia Flyers turnover and then channeled his inner Pavel Datsyuk while toe-dragging between Matt Read and Braydon Coburn to get in on Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
His backhand shot was headed to a wide-open side of the Flyers net, but Mason whipped his paddle across the crease to swat the puck away and then dove back to make sure the rebound wasn't tucked in.
The Rangers led the series 2-1, and the Flyers were protecting a one-goal lead in the dying seconds of the second period. The 2-1 score would stand, and the Flyers evened the series, thanks in large part to Mason's stop—one of 31 he made on the night.
9. Rask Wings It to Stone Helm
It didn't take long for Boston Bruins star Tuukka Rask to make his mark in the playoffs.
In Game 1 of the opening-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Rask made a massive save in the third period to deny Darren Helm in tight.
He first blocked a long shot from the point, courtesy of Jakub Kindl, and then planted an edge to make sure he got across in time to stone Helm on the rebound with no other member of the Bruins in a position to help.
The Detroit Red Wings won a 1-0 decision on the night, but behind Rask's strong play, the Bruins bounced back with four straight victories to eliminate the Wings in five games.
8. Lundqvist Recovers Just in Time to Stop Gionta
Brian Gionta may not have gotten everything he wanted on the puck, but it might not have mattered.
Henrik Lundqvist robbed the Montreal Canadiens winger in their Eastern Conference Final after making a nifty save on another shot by Tomas Plekanec. He turned the Plekanec shot aside with the right pad then had to quickly push his way over when Gionta corralled the rebound.
NHL.com writer Dan Rosen called it the "save of the series."
7. Sorry Sharks, He's Too Quick
In terms of importance, this might have been Quick's biggest save of the playoffs.
Needing one more win to do the unthinkable to complete the comeback and claim the series against the San Jose Sharks after falling behind three games to none in the opening round, the Los Angeles Kings were in trouble in Game 7, with the game tied and the Sharks swarming on the power play.
Buried in a sea of swarming players, Quick followed the puck's trajectory after stuffing Joe Pavelski twice in close. Patrick Marleau kicked the puck from his skate to his stick and aimed for the open side of the net, but Quick snapped the glove back and pulled it away from the goal line in the nick of time.
It was a memorable moment, which Los Angeles Times scribe Lisa Dillman described as "perhaps the save of the series."
6. St. Louis Foiled by Lunging Tokarski
Imagine the pressure Montreal Canadiens third-stringer Dustin Tokarski must have felt when Carey Price was injured, and he got the call to replace him over backup Peter Budaj.
You have to imagine it, because Tokarski rarely showed any signs of being overwhelmed. The 24-year-old seemed to have Martin St. Louis' number more often than not. He made a sweet glove grab that had the veteran Rangers sniper looking to the sky in Game 4 and got the knob of his stick on a sure goal by Carl Hagelin—set up by St. Louis—in Game 5.
His best of the series, though, was this aggressive move to rob St. Louis with less than a minute left in Game 3. Down 2-0 in the series, the Habs were protecting a 2-1 lead, and the Rangers had their goalie pulled for the extra attacker.
Rick Nash found St. Louis all alone in prime scoring position, but Tokarski lunged forward and got enough of his glove on the shot to send the puck out of play.
A fortunate bounce for Chris Kreider allowed the Rangers to tie the game shortly thereafter, but the Canadiens did win it in overtime on Alex Galchenyuk's tip-in off the body to get the Habs back in the series.
Tokarski's play in the series even earned him props from Tonight Show host and Rangers fan Jimmy Fallon.
5. Two Strikes for Crawford
Not sure if this counts as one save or two but it's impressive either way.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford doesn't get many kudos and had an inconsistent Western Conference Final series against the Los Angeles Kings, but he was solid in the first couple of rounds.
In this particular sequence against the Minnesota Wild, Zach Parise collected a pass from Jared Spurgeon and swept it at the net. Crawford made the first save, but the puck bounced awkwardly up his body and headed for the open cage behind him.
Seeing the rebound flip up, he twisted and batted it over the crossbar, where it settled on top of the net.
Crawford was sharp against the Wild. He also made a memorable nice pad stop on a spinning effort from Cody McCormick on a partial breakaway.
4. Alec Martinez to the Rescue
Quick is the Los Angeles Kings star goaltender, but it was defenseman Alec Martinez who made the biggest save of the second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Overtime in Game 1 was inches from being over and falling in favor of the Ducks when Corey Perry had Quick down and out and a mostly open net to shoot at to take the series lead.
Instead, he found a heap of Martinez filling in as a goalie, making a pretty slick kick save (more than a simple block) to deny the Ducks sniper the game-winning goal. The Kings would win the game and eventually the series.
He talked about the save with reporters afterward, via LAKingsInsider.com:
I guess I channeled my inner goalie playing in the driveway when I was younger. Like I said, I just tried to get in front of it. I know Quickie had just made a save, and he was trying to get over, so I just tried to go down and get in front of it.
That wasn't the only big stop made by a non-goalie. Montreal Canadiens forward David Desharnais made a stick and then glove swipe to prevent a goal in Game 6 of the Habs' series against the Boston Bruins to help force Game 7.
3. Big Blocker Save by Price
Carey Price was incredible through two rounds before the Montreal Canadiens netminder got hurt in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers.
If he stayed healthy, some would argue it would be the Habs in the Stanley Cup Final right now. We'll never know whether or not that is true, but what we do know is Price was the main reason the Canadiens beat the Eastern Conference heavyweight Boston Bruins in Round 2.
Saves like this one set the tone for the Canadiens.
It's Game 1 of the series, more than halfway through the first overtime period, and the Bruins managed a three-on-two rush. Jarome Iginla found a wide-open David Krejci in the slot, and Krejci made a quick move to the backhand with a shot labelled for the far post.
Price had already made a move to cut across his crease in the other direction after the pass but still somehow reached out with his blocker to stab the puck away.
Defenseman P.K. Subban ripped home the winning goal to reward him in the next overtime period.
2. Tennis, Anyone?
The Stanley Cup Final is the biggest stage for these guys, and this was its biggest save through three games.
The Rangers were pouring on the pressure in the first period of Game 3. Down two games to none in the series after their trip to Los Angeles, the New Yorkers were well aware of the importance of getting back in the series with a victory at home.
Quick was having none of that.
Among a handful of stellar saves during what turned out to be a 3-0 Kings shutout was this gem in the first period.
The Rangers' most dangerous forward of the Final corralled a loose puck at the side of the net, letting it trickle through his legs before sweeping it at the open net. Or at least it what Mats Zuccarello thought was an empty net, before Quick jabbed at it with his stick just in time.
"This Jonathan Quick tonight looks a lot like the 2012 version," pointed out CBC color commentator Craig Simpson.
He might as well have said Novak Djokovic the way Quick got his paddle on pucks in the contest. This beauty against Derick Brassard in the second period, via the NHL's YouTube account, might, to some, have been even better than the first against Zuccarello.
1. Lundqvist Adjusts on the Fly
As positionally sound as he is, Henrik Lundqvist isn't just a puck-blocker who uses his angles to make saves. He's as athletic as any goaltender out there.
Here's a great example of how quickly Lundqvist can adapt to a play and track the puck.
When Marc Staal gave the puck right to Thomas Vanek to create a two-one-one, defense partner Dan Girardi dove back toward the net to try and thwart the pass across the crease. Lundqvist anticipated the pass and started to cheat, but the pass attempt bounced off Girardi's stick and headed to the open corner.
Watch Lundqvist's mask as he realized the puck was deflected and the incredible move he made to contort his body and swing his blocker around to smack the puck away.
It had former NHL goalie Marty Biron questioning the identity of the man in the Rangers net:
"Is it Dominic Lundqvist or Henrik Hasek?" he asked.