NHL Playoff Breakdown

by Ben Burns

If the first few games are any indication, we're in for an exciting NHL postseason. For the first time in history, the first three games of the NHL playoffs all went to Overtime. In fact, the fourth game nearly did, too. The third of those OT games was an epic duel between a pair of veteran goalies, Cam Talbot of the Minnesota Wild and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Knights. 

In last year's playoffs, there wasn't a single game which was scoreless after regulation. This year, it happened on the first full day of games. (It had previously happened in April of 2019, a game between the Islanders and Hurricanes.) 

Fleury, the first goalie to ever play in 15 straight postseasons, made some huge saves. Talbot made even more. Forty-two of them. Minnesota won 1-0, reminding us of the importance of "hot goaltending" in the playoffs. 

It's hard to predict which goalies are going to "get hot" at the right time, as they're all capable of doing so. It's important to pay attention to how they look out of the gate; the playoffs are an entirely different beast. Here are some to keep an eye on:

Vasilevskiy (Tampa) Though he wasn't spectacular in the opening game of this year's playoffs, he still did enough. Vasilevskiy would stop 35 of 39 en route to the 5-4 win. He proved himself in last year's postseason and he's off a dominant regular season. 

Fleury (Vegas) At 36, Fleury is still playing at a very high level. As mentioned, this is his 15th straight trip to the playoffs. He's hoisted the Cup before and he managed career bests in both goals against average and save percentage during the regular season.

Campbell (Toronto) Unlike the others, Campbell doesn't have playoff experience. There's also a lot of pressure on him. Still, he was excellent in the regular season and we've see young goalies get it done in the past.

Rask (Boston) Rask has been playing at a high level for years but hasn't won the Cup as a starter (Rask was backup to Tim Thomas when the Bruins won in 2011.) He battled injuries this season but now appears to be healthy

Talbot (Minnesota) Talbot wouldn't have necessarily cracked this list, if not for his superb effort in 1-0 win over the Knights. He's played well in the playoffs in the past though. He's going to need to keep standing on his head if the Wild want to knock off the Knights. 

There are a lot of other capable goalies in the field, too. Guys like Carey Price, Jordan Binnington and Semyon Varlamov. (Varlamov didn't play in the Isles' opener but rookie Ilya Sorokin stepped in and got the win.) 

Going forward, pay close attention to which goalies are playing their best. Confidence can be contagious. You may want to also keep an eye on the road teams, too. They're 3-1 through the first two days. Enjoy the games and good luck! 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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