Aside from the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series, goaltending has outright dominated the 2011-12 playoffs. In fact, all 4 of the teams coming out of the West have 2 goals allowed per game or less. The Rangers are the only team out of the East with a sub-2.00 GAA but Washington isn’t far behind at 2.14. Only one series will actual get you any goals: Philadelphia-New Jersey.
As you prepare for the second round of your playoff pool, who should you choose for your goalies? By the stats, you really can’t go wrong with Brian Elliott, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, or Mike Smith. Elliott is the best statistically, it’s hard to argue against a Blues team playing so well (especially with Halak out with an injury) and the Kings have the lowest goals per game (2.40) out of any team out of the West. Pekka Rinne ousted the Red Wings in 5 games and many consider them the favourite in the West now but you can’t discount Mike Smith’s ability to steal a game. The only goalie matchup out of the East worth mentioning is Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby. Holtby stunned the Bruins in the first round, while the Sens surprised everyone by taking the Rangers to seven games. Lundqvist and Holtby are also neck and neck statistically but Washington has more goals per game (2.49 vs. 2.00) than the Rangers. Just stay away from the Philadelphia series.
Verdict: Rinne and Elliott. Even if their teams don’t win, the series’ are expected to go long with low scoring.
A bonus point for a team shutout isn’t enough for me to risk putting too much stock in defensemen out of the West but there has been limited production out of any of the East blueliners. Keith Yandle leads active playoff D-men with 5 points (all assists). His teammate Klesla follows him with 4 points but I’m not going near that. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are two of the top-ranking active playoff D-men in time on ice and if you’re backing Nashville, they would be a good bet. The Rangers have been getting good performance out of Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman (4 points each) and Girardi leads all active playoff D-men in time on ice. On that note, Braydon Coburn has also produced for the Flyers and ranks closely behind Girardi in playing time. One wrinkle to Weber, Girardi, and Coburn’s case is they average 4+ minutes per game on the penalty kill. The top players on the powerplay? Drew Doughty, Ryan Suter, Michael Del Zotto, Shea Weber, Willie Mitchell.
Verdict: Shea Weber is a no brainer. Dan Girardi, Ryan Suter, and Marek Zidlicky are good secondary options.
This is where the Flyers and Devils shine. Claude Giroux is tearing up the playoffs with 14 points and will be on everyone’s roster so you better pick him too. The Flyers aren’t facing a quality goalie like 6 other teams in the playoffs so be sure to load up on other top performing teammates like Danny Briere, Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr, and Brayden Schenn. Fortunately for the Devils, Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t been on top of his game this playoffs either. The Flyers are expected to continue to allow a good clip of goals – at least more than 6 other playoff teams – so studs like Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise are also a good choice. Travis Zajac had a solid first round and could be a good pick if you’re worried that Parise and Kovy will be popular. Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin have been the only high profile Capitals to have any success against the Rangers this season. Semin could be the attractive option here as you can expect Rangers to focus a lot of attention on shutting down Ovechkin. Are you expecting the Caps’ third stringer to continue this level of play? If not, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan should be the favourites to put up some points. Since I’ve gone with Rinne and Elliott to steal the show in the West, if I’m going to take any forwards, they will be Blues or Predators. Andy McDonald (8 points) has been a stud these playoffs and he and teammate Patrik Berglund (7 points) have more than 2x the 3rd-highest Blues scorers (3 points). The Kings do have scorers in Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar and you can expect Mike Richards to be in the mix but getting through St Louis’ tough defense will be a challenge. Alexander Radulov leads the Preds in scoring with 5 points and is really the only option coming out of Nashville.
Verdict: Give me the Flyers’ Giroux, Briere, and Jagr, and the Devils’ Kovalchuk and Parise for starters. Andy McDonald is the only other no-brainer on this list as he has continued his solid regular season into the playoffs. Richards and Radulov should provide good secondary scoring to spread it out a bit.