Down the Stretch

Justin Goldman

2011-01-31

Lundy

 

For six elite goaltenders, the All-Star Weekend was a chance for them to showcase their skills to the entire hockey world. For the other 54 NHL goalies, it was a chance to relax for a long weekend, push the proverbial reset button and get refocused in order to play their best hockey of the season down the stretch.

 

Before I dig into this week's lesson, I wanted to say that the NHL's All-Star Weekend, in my opinion, was much more successful than I expected. I was interested and entertained enough to watch the entire Fantasy Draft and I had some good laughs during the Skills Competition. I'll never forget the goalie race between Cam Ward and Tim Thomas, both of who are tremendous skaters, but with completely different forms.

 

The All-Star Game was a good one, especially when it came to the second period goaltenders. Jonas Hiller, who faced the most shots of all six goalies, was by far the most impressive of them all. I also nominated Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist as my other Three Goalie Stars of the Game. Lundqvist had a pair of ridiculous saves on Danny Briere and Martin Havlat and Price's calm demeanor was on display for the entire second period.

 

FANTASY MAILBAG – JANUARY 31

 

With roughly 10 weeks left in the regular season, a number of goalies, especially in the Western Conference, will be relied upon more heavily to win games. As we've seen in the previous five years, the sense of urgency from here on out suddenly surges and we'll easily be able to feel that glorious playoff atmosphere each and every night.

 

From a goalie's perspective, just a few of the game dynamics that they'll have to process include drastic momentum swings and a rise in a game's speed and pace. As a result, goalies will need to find the energy – both physically and mentally – to be even more durable, focused, consistent and timely than they were before the All-Star break.

 

These obvious aspects of goaltending following the All-Star Weekend mean one thing; Goalies must adjust as quickly as possible. Since things happen faster and outcomes mean so much more in the playoff race, they're forced to improve every element and aspect of their game…almost overnight.

 

With that in mind, let's take a look at some goalies that I think will not only play well in this crucial stretch of games, but boost their team's playoff chances. One goalie that definitely deserves to be on this list is Tomas Vokoun. But you won't find him included below because I think we all know by now just how well he can play down the stretch.

 

MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF – He only posted a .885 save percentage and 3.09 goals-against average in January, going