There is an old adage in the game of hockey that all you need for success in the NHL Playoffs in a hot goaltender. Though it typically takes a bit more than that to ultimately find success, a hot goaltender is an absolute necessity.
Goaltending has stolen the show throughout the entire first round of the NHL playoffs, and has been the main contributing factor as to why the under has hit in 23 of the 39 games played thus far in round one.
Hockey fans and under bettors alike have been treated to a display of hard work and talent the likes of which we have not seen in a while.
Grace Between the Pipes Proves Not Always Enough
A few of the goaltenders who have amazed us most have also typically been on the losing side of the series. This makes perfect sense of course, because in order to have a 50+ save game, your team typically needs to be heavily outshot.
We have seen multiple examples of this so far, but none more impressive than the opening game of the 2020 NHL playoffs back on August 11th when the Tampa Bay Lightning battled the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-2 victory in FIVE overtimes.
It was a record setting night across the board. The game itself would become the 4th longest playoff game in NHL history (90:27) and top line skaters pushed the limit of minutes on the ice.
No one had a busier night than Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo. He made 85 saves on 88 Lightning shot attempts, which absolutely shattered the previous record of 73 saves in a playoff game set by Kelly Hrudey of the NY Islanders during the infamous 1987 “Easter Epic.”
Korpisalo had been hot during the Blue Jackets play in series against Toronto as well, posting two shut outs in five games.
Ultimately Columbus would lose the series 4-1 to Tampa Bay. Korpisalo did not receive much help from his team, and was basically the only reason the Blue Jackets were even competitive in this series.
Tampa outshot Columbus by 34 yet only outscored them 14-12. Those numbers are even a bit skewed by a game 5 where the Jackets where able to put 41 shots on goal, which is a far cry from their shot totals the previous three games.
Corey Crawford was also in net for a team who fell victim to a 4-1 series.
The two-time Stanley Cup winning veteran was the only reason Chicago did not get swept by Vegas. Chicago was HEAVILY outshot all series long, forcing Crawford to make 55% more saves than the opposing net minder duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner.
Crawford made 174 saves total, topped off by a 48 save performance in a must win game 4 situation.
Darcy Kuemper and the Arizona Coyotes met the same fate as the previous two goalie and team pairings. They too lost their series 4-1 and were outshot in embarrassing fashion.
Kuemper may not have had as good of a save% or GAA average as the previous goalies, but he did have a 49 save performance, and plays on a team with an anemic forecheck.
As an NHL team, being held under 20 shots is demoralizing. This happened to the Coyotes twice in five games. They were only able to muster 14 shots in game 1 and 15 shots in game 4.
The best display of goaltending you could ask for is going on in the Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens series. Two incredible net minders in Carey Price and Carter Hart have been at their best for their teams, and helped hit the under in the first four games of the series.
In fact, only 11 goals were scored in those four games, and three of them resulted in a shutout for one of the sides. Carey Price shutout game 2, while Carter Hart posted back to back shutouts in games 3 and 4.
The impressive numbers are not for lack of offensive chances either. Both the Canadiens and Flyers are averaging just under 30 shots a game.
Even though most of the goalies I mentioned here will not be continuing in the 2020 NHL playoffs, they made the opening round much more competitive and more fun to watch.
I have mentioned the under quite a few times, because it is unusual to see it hit this often.
Maybe it is because of the teams having been apart for so long, or maybe the goalies just came back more prepared than ever. Either way, I have a feeling the scoring will pick up as we move into the later rounds.
If you blindly bet the under on every NHL game so far, you would be up 7 units. It would have been 10, but yesterday was the first big day for the over since August 12th.
Unders Hit Per Day:
August 11th: 3 of 3
August 12th: 2 of 5
August 13th: 2 of 4
August 14th: 3 of 5
August 15th: 3 of 4
August 16th: 4 of 5
August 17th: 2 of 4
August 18th: 3 of 4
August 19th: 1 of 5
Good luck on your bets!