After three days of action in the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs, we've already seen trends start to emerge. One of the more important and intriguing ones is the remarkable performances by the goaltenders, leading to an usually high number of low-scoring games.
In 12 postseason games to date, there have been a remarkable five shutouts, plus four more one-goal performances. It marks a far cry from last season's relative goalfest, which saw five days of action pass before the first shutout was registered.
Washington's Michal Neuvirth (22 saves), Vancouver's Roberto Luongo (32 saves), Montreal's Carey Price (31 saves), Buffalo's Ryan Miller (35 saves), and Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury (32 saves) have all already recorded a blank scorecard for their opponents.
Additionally, Tampa Bay's Dwyane Roloson (34 saves), Philadelphia's Sergei Bobrovsky (24 saves), Nashville's Pekka Rinne (27 saves), and, again, Neuvirth (24 saves this time) have held oncoming offenses to just one goal.
Amazingly, the fact is that while the average goals per team has dropped from 2.73 during the regular season to just 2.08 during the postseason, shot totals have actually risen from an average of 29.39 per team to 30.53.
As a result, the average save percentage for all goaltenders during the playoffs (93.2 percent) is up two-and-a-half percent over the regular season average (90.7 percent).
Backstopped by their impeccable netminders, teams are often winning games despite their own offensive ineptitude. Buffalo rolled away with a 1-0 win in Philadelphia in the first game of their series, while a remarkable eight other games have been won with a mere two goals.
Many of the playoff matchups have also been quite close, with both goaltenders on their "A" game. Nine of the 12 overall games have been decided by two goals or less, a number that jumps to nine of 10 if you exclude the Penguins-Lightning series, which has had results of 3-0 and 5-1.
Although too many conclusions shouldn't be drawn this early, we can already see that practically every goaltender has put up at least one fantastic effort in the first game or two of their series.
Will this low-scoring trend continue throughout the first round and the rest of the 2011 postseason?
Keep your eyes on the goalies to find out.
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