by PuckStopsHere on 04/05/10 at 11:24 AM ET
The playoffs are almost upon us and it looks like none of the top seeds in the West Conference are without question marks in goal. The Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks have all either clinched their division victory or are expected to do so soon, but none of these teams have had strong goaltending recently.
Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo may have been the gold medal winning goalie in the Olympics, but he has posted a .891 saves percentage since then. That level of play is not likely good enough for a significant playoff run.
San Jose has another Olympic goalie in Russia’s Evgeni Nabokov. He has a .890 saves percentage since the Olympic break.
Chicago’s Cristobal Huet is from France. If France had qualified for the Olympics, he would have been their number one goalie. In the NHL he has been bad lately. He has posted a .833 saves percentage since the break.
Unlike Vancouver and San Jose, Chicago has a second option in goal. Rookie Antti Niemi seems to have taken over their number one goaltending job. He has played relatively well down the stretch, but how much can realistically be expected from this first year NHL player in the playoffs?
If their goaltending remains the way it has been for the past month or so, the West Conference top seeds will all have rough times in the playoffs. Each is at risk of an early round upset. However, each has reason to be optimistic. Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov have proven to be some of the NHL’s best goalies of the last few years and could emerge as playoff stars this year. Antti Niemi has played well enough to give Chicago hope in goal as well. Ironically, the top team in the East Conference, the Washington Capitals, is considered to have a goaltending weakness, but Jose Theodore has played well down the stretch.
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