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Rask, Lundqvist, Niemi Among Top NHL Goaltenders Heading To Playoffs

Posted by Don Melrose on 4/27/2013 12:55:22 AM

The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and San Jose Sharks are all headed to the NHL playoffs this online sports betting season. The goaltending for each of these teams is among the biggest reasons for it. The Bruins, Rangers, and Sharks have all had the benefit of elite goaltending during the regular season, as all three teams rank in the top-10 in goals per game allowed. Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist, and Antti Niemi have been the regular season heroes, and it will be on them to lead their teams if they are going to have any chance to go on an extended playoff run.

Rask has been the best of them this season, with a 19-9-4 record and 1.94 goals against average on the year. A potential Vezina trophy candidate, many will point to the Bruins’ strong defensive play as a reason for Rask’s numbers being so good. However, as good as Boston has been at its own end, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Rask has emerged as one of the best young goaltenders in the NHL, and his lightning reflexes and ability to follow pucks through traffic have pushed him to the top of this online sportsbook list. The Bruins are among the favorites to reach the Stanley Cup finals, but that will require Rask shining against the Pittsburgh Penguins and their top-ranked offense at some point along the way.

While Rask’s emergence has been rather recent, one goalie that has been doing it for a long time is Lundqvist. The Rangers struggled in the early going and it looked at times like they may not have what it takes to make the postseason, but Lundqvist held down the fort in the early going and New York caught fire down the final stretch to lock up a playoff spot. Lundqvist is 23-16-3, and the fact that he has a 2.10 goals against average despite losing 19 games is testament to how good he is. Lundqvist led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012, and will need to be at his best in order for them to get there again.

As for the Western Conference playoff picture, Niemi finished the regular season with a 24-11-6 record and 2.14 goals against average. The Sharks struggled to score goals despite so much top-tier talent, and the difference between them getting in came down to Niemi’s play. San Jose has struggled to get anywhere in the postseason over the years because they haven’t been good enough in their own end. Niemi’s presence could be the difference this year, and considering the way the Sharks struggled to generate offense this year he will need to be.

Traditionally the top end goalies in the NHL have tended to include North Americans, with goalies like Carey Price, Tim Thomas, and Roberto Luongo among the names that helped lead their teams to the conference finals and more. However, it is all European talent at the top of the online betting list this time around, and Rask, Lundqvist, and Niemi are the top-three goalies heading in to the postseason.

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