NHL Western Conference goalie storylines | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNHL Western Conference goalie storylines

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2014 | 11:01 PM

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The eight goaltenders that will lead their Western Conference teams into the Stanley Cup playoffs. (CBCSports.ca/Getty Images) The eight goaltenders that will lead their Western Conference teams into the Stanley Cup playoffs. (CBCSports.ca/Getty Images)

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Arguably the most important position on a hockey team, the role of the goaltender is not one to be taken lightly. While the team itself has it's own story of how it got to the playoffs, there is a spotlight shining -- at times blindingly -- in the blue paint.
While each NHL team has its own story of how it got to the post-season, there is a spotlight shining -- at times blindingly -- on the blue paint.

Time to look back at the year that was for the playoff-bound goaltenders of the Western Conference, their shining moments, and what questions they face heading into the NHL's second season.

Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov
Stats: 41-14-6, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%

Varlamov shook off some off-ice problems early in the season to help the revitalized Avalanche to their first playoff appearance since 2010, while leading the league in wins by a goalie.

Burning question: After being part of two Washington Capitals post-season flameouts, and a disappointing Olympic tournament, is Varlamov built for a deep run?

Highlight-reel save: Patrik Elias tries his best, but Varlamov follows every deke.


St. Louis Blues: Ryan Miller
Stats: 25-30-4, 2.64 GAA, .918 SV%

After being the cornerstone of the Buffalo Sabres for more than a decade, Miller was traded to the Blues near the trade deadline. Going from the 1A/1B tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, St. Louis now has a bona fide every-game starter.

Burning question: Now that he's moved to one of the best teams in the NHL, is Miller the key piece the Blues were missing in the quest for the franchise's first Stanley Cup?

Highlight-reel save: Miller utilizes every last centimetre of his goal stick to rob Mikhail Grabovski.


Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick
Stats: 27-17-4, 2.07 GAA, .915 SV%

The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has helped his sometimes offensively challenged Kings back into the playoffs, where their ability to grind teams down and Quick's steady play make them a dangerous opponent.

Burning question: The Kings averaged two goals in the four games they lost to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference final in 2012. Does L.A. have the firepower to help their goalie out?

Highlight-reel save: A deflected Jay Bouwmeester shot was no match for Quick's reflexes.


Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller
Stats: 29-13-7, 2.48 GAA, .911 SV%

A year after their upset in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings, Hiller and the Ducks have once again excelled in the regular season.

Burning question: Anaheim went 1-3 in overtime games in that opening-round loss to Detroit last year. Is Hiller ready for that kind of pressure this time around?

Highlight-reel save: Hiller goes cross-crease to snag Brad Marchand's shot.


Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford
Stats: 32-16-10, 2.26 GAA, .917 SV%

The Blackhawks haven't so much endured a Stanley Cup hangover as they have a rash of late-season injuries. Add the amount of games played through their 2013 Stanley Cup run, and you have a defending champion that may be ripe for an upset.

Burning question: Will Crawford be up to the task of another long run into the playoffs?

Highlight-reel save: No stick? No problem.


San Jose Sharks: Antti Niemi
Stats: 39-17-7, 2.39 GAA, .913 SV%

Niemi helped the 'Hawks win the Cup in 2010, and San Jose is counting on that experience to help them get to their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history. Thanks to some solid play by backup Alex Stalock, Niemi will come in relatively rested.

Burning question: He helped end the Blackhawks' Cup drought in 2010. Can Niemi be part of the Sharks' breakthrough after so many years of playoff disappointments?

Highlight-reel save: Down, but not out.


Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen
Stats: 33-0-10, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%

Returning from injury, Lehtonen took the starter reins back from Tim Thomas and helped guide the Stars to a blistering finish, sewing up the final playoff spot in the West. The 30-year-old has only played in two NHL playoff games -- and owns a ghastly .849 save percentage and 5.49 goals-against.

Burning question: With a Conn Smythe-winning goalie riding the pine, how long of a leash will Lindy Ruff have on Lehtonen? 

Highlight-reel save: Now that is co-ordination.

Minnesota Wild: Ilya Bryzgalov
Stats: 12-8-8, 2.57 GAA, .913 SV% 

Losing your starter, backup, and backup's backup to injury usually means your playoff dreams are crushed. Not exactly the case with the Wild. With Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding done for the year, and Darcy Kuemper out with an upper-body injury on March 31, everyone's favourite character gets another shot at the playoffs.

Burning question: After being run out of Philadelphia, will Minnesota be a better home for Bryz to succeed in the post-season pressure cooker?

Highlight-reel save: He's only afraid of "bear in forest," James Neal. And he has one on his jersey.

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