The Phoenix Coyotes and Mike Smith defeated the Nashville Predators and their Vezina Candidate Goaltender Pekka Rinne to secure a place in the Western Conference Finals. Their next step on the road to the Stanley Cup? The Los Angeles Kings and THEIR Vezina Candidate Goaltender Jonathan Quick. At this point in time we would like to note that "Hockey the Hard Way" apparently means we have to beat every Vezina Candidate before we get the Stanley Cup.
We all thought that Smith/Rinne was going to be the biggest goaltending matchup of the playoffs, and it started off anything but. To be fair the last 3 games were the kinda close contests we thought they were going to be, but Game 1 and 2 taught us that you can't take anything for granted in the playoffs. The numbers seem to suggest that this is going to be a very low scoring series, which makes sense because there have been two 1-0 games played between these two teams, but there has also been a 5-4 game and a 4-3 game this season, so who really knows how this is going to go down. The only thing we really know is that both of these goalies are incredibly talented and statistically very similar, and right now a lot of analysts are saying that they are two of the likely Conn Smythe candidates, provided they take their team to the next round.
Currently our stats widget is down so I'm going to have to do this the old fashioned way. Quick has only lost 1 game during the playoffs, which is just insane. Quick is posting a stellar goals against average of just 1.55 goals per game, and has made 260 saves with a save percentage of .949. He has only allowed 14 goals during 9 games in the playoffs and has posted one shut out. I'm not sure if there is anyone who has performed better during the playoffs than Quick. He is the product of a team that lacked any offensive prowess during most of the regular season, and in order for his team to win he had to play as close to perfect as any goalie in the league, a feat that he has gotten good at accomplishing. During the regular season he led the league in shut outs, including 2 against the Coyotes.
LA seems to like goaltenders named Jonathan, and you really shouldn't expect to see much of Jonathan Bernier except when the cameras cut away to the Kings' bench. Bernier didn't play against the Coyotes this season, and he hasn't had to play in any of the 9 LA playoff games. Bernier was 5-6-2 during the regular season and had a shut out. He had a .909 save percentage and averaged 2.36 goals against.
If Quick is the number 1 goal in the playoffs right now Smith is definitely a close second. Smith has only lost 3 games, and 2 were in overtime. He has only allowed 21 goals against average of 1.77 in the playoffs. He has made 379 saves, a playoff high, leading to a .948 save percentage, .001 below Quick. He has also posted 2 shut outs, another playoff high. In the regular season Smith had 8 shut outs, including 1 against the Kings. In the first series against Chicago Smith seemed to have a problem with the Blackhawks strong offense in the last minutes of the game, which he seemed to quiet down in the Nashville series although you can't really compare Chicago's offense to Nashville's. I would probably say that the Kings' offense compares more to Chicago's so hopefully he can protect any leads especially if this series is going to be tight like most people are predicting.
Jason LaBarbera probably isn't going to be seeing much ice time unless Smith gets injured or if the game starts going horribly horribly wrong. Barbs has played a game against the Kings, he was pretty good but he allowed 4 goals and had to be pulled. In terms of the regular season Barbs' record wasn't that great, 3-9-3. Barbs is pretty good though, he has a .912 save percentage and 2.54 goals against average. The problem is if Quick is in net we can't have a goalie who is good, we need one who is great.
If you like watching 2 goaltenders stand on their head then this is probably going to be the series for you. The team who figures out how to score on their opponent's goaltender is going to be the ones to win this series and the Western Conference.