It is a well-known fact that great goaltending wins championships. Four of the last ten Conn Smythe trophy winners, awarded to the most valuable player during the playoffs, have been goaltenders, the most recent being Tim Thomas of the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins.
The Bruins would not have come close to winning the Stanley Cup last year if it weren’t for the record setting play of Thomas who posted a .940 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average. As if trying to improve on his incredible postseason of last season, Thomas started the first game of the 2012 playoffs like he did the last game of the 2011 playoffs, by posting a shutout. He came into the game riding a 123 minute and 44 second shutout streak. The last goal he allowed was to Maxim Lapierre with just 2:26 remaining in Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Washington Capitals were forced to start untested rookie goaltender Braden Holtby due to injuries suffered by both their starting and backup goaltenders. Many wondered how Holtby would handle the pressure of playoff hockey. Would he falter and crack under the tension or would he go the way of previous rookie goaltenders like Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden and post stellar stats in the post season? After Game 1 which saw Holtby stop 29 out of 30 shots, some thought maybe it was fluke. Game 2 would prove that this kid was for real. Holtby faced 44 shots in Washington’s 2-1 double overtime victory against the Bruins, only allowing one goal.
Both Thomas and Holtby have played incredible hockey in this series and we’re only two games in. There have been a combined 130 shots in the two games and only 4 goals have been surrendered.
It looks like the series is going to come down to which goaltender makes the least amount of mistakes. Although the series might not be as high scoring and flashy as the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Philadelphia Flyers matchup, fans of both Boston and Washington are still getting their money’s worth of exciting hockey.
The series is tied up at 1-1 and moves to Washington for the next two games of this best of seven series. Game 3 will be played Monday night at 7:30PM in Washington. Look for the teams to continue playing excellent defense and the goalies continuing to be stingy when it comes to allowing goals being scored.