NHL Week in Review (April 17-23)

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There is no question about the position that means the most in the playoffs as every year it is the team with a great goalie that wins the Stanley Cup.

They aren’t the only factor in winning championships but they are a big reason that many teams lose championships.

Goaltenders are the last line of defence in a time of year when the attack from teams is relentless.

A great goalie makes the difference in those games when a team is not playing at their top level as they can win a game for their team by themselves.

The goalie has always been a key member of every championship team and without one, a good team was going to fall pretty quickly.

Teams know this and they know that they have to ensure that their goalie is the best in the playoffs to give them the best shot.

The problem with the goaltending position is that heading into the playoffs a goalie can look like the solution only to fall apart.

Being a goalie is a very physically demanding job in the flexibility and reflexes it takes to be successful aren’t found in every athlete.

As physical as it is there is also no other position that requires as much mental toughness as it does physical.

Goalies need to be in the right frame of mind to be successful as they need to stay focused the entire game to avoid costly mistakes.

One lapse in focus can lose a game and sometimes that lapse can make a goalie nervous, which can make them far less effective.

The Philadelphia Flyers got a lesson in this early in the playoffs as their starting goalie, Steve Mason, was a solid netminder throughout the year but against the top team heading into the playoffs he struggled.

It mainly started with a goal scored from beyond centre ice that snuck by Mason in Game 2.

Then in Game 3 Mason allowed another fluky goal when he misplayed a puck that hit off of a stanchion.

The first fluky goal seemed to affect Mason in the worst way as the goals began climbing and the Flyers moved to within a game of elimination.

Trying to change things up, the Flyers moved on to Michal Neuvirth for what could have been their final game in Game 4.

The move proved to be a great one as Neuvirth saved 31 shots to help the Flyers to their first win of the series.

Then in Game 5 Neuvirth pitched a shutout saving 44 shots and staving off elimination for the second game in a row.hockey-sidebar

If the Flyers can do the unthinkable and come back from a 3-0 series deficit there will be no question about why it has happened.

The change of goalie just shows how important goaltenders can be in the playoffs and what a difference they can make for a team.

The Flyers are in it right now and although they still have a tough road to get to the next round they have been given a chance thanks to finding the right goalie.

The Flyers aren’t the only team to attempt to find some momentum from a goalie change as the Detroit Red Wings tried to do it earlier in their series.

The Wings were going down fast and so they decided to use Petr Mrazek in place of Jimmy Howard.

The moved worked for a while but in the end, it was Mrazek’s mistakes in Game 5 that were the undoing of the Red Wings.

That is another example of a team not having that goalie that can be the difference for a team and can steal the necessary games.

The Wings were undone by it and there will be a few more teams that realise that truth soon.

It is the most important position in the playoffs and the teams with the best performance from their goalies will go on.

It is not about the top goalie from the regular season either as those goalies might falter when the pressure gets bigger.

It is about the goalies that play the best right now and so far there are a few candidates that could bring their teams to the Stanley Cup but only time will tell as the march to the Stanley Cup continues.

Overtime
(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Shaw’s Lapse
The NHL is taking the same tone as many other leagues as they won’t tolerate homophobic language in the sport and Andrew Shaw got a first-hand lesson as he received a game suspension for using a homophobic slur during the game

Barriers for 2018|
The IIHF and the NHL have continued their negotiations over the participation of NHL players in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and both admitted this week that there will be significant barriers to getting them to the Olympics

The End of the Magic Man
Pavel Datsyuk was one of the most skilled players in NHL history and earned the nickname Magic Man for his ability to control the puck but this week when the Red Wings were eliminated the NHL may have seen his last game as he plans to return to Russia

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