The Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday, and goalies will no doubt play a big role in which teams advance -- and which fall short. ESPN's NHL experts weigh in on the goaltenders who give teams the biggest net advantage and who could be cause for concern in the crease.
Which goalies do you trust the most in the playoffs?
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: Jonathan Quick has two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a .921 career playoff save percentage. No, it didn't go all that well for Quick in his previous postseason with the Los Angeles Kings, but if I had one game I needed to win, Quick is one of the few goaltenders I would wager on to win it on his own. But the question isn't about making a gamble, it's about which goalie you trust. I trust that Quick could steal a game. Ultimately, I'd say I trust Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins most to not lose a game. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 21 of his 31 playoff starts. That includes back-to-back shutouts against the Nashville Predators en route to winning the Cup last season and giving up two or fewer scores in six of his final eight starts in winning the 2016 Cup.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Give me Pekka Rinne as the guy who I would trust most throughout the playoffs. Sure, he has an excellent defensive group playing in front of him, but there's a reason the four-time Vezina Trophy finalist is the front-runner for the award this season. The 35-year-old has put together strong stretches throughout his career, but he has looked as locked in as ever for the entire season (.927 save percentage, 2.32 GAA). Recency bias factors in; I'm expecting Rinne to build off his performance in last year's postseason. Without Henrik Lundqvist in the field this year, I'm tabbing Rinne as the goaltender who can stand on his head, withstand a high volume of shots and seal a win.
Ben Arledge, Insider editor: I trust Rinne, John Gibson and Quick the most when it comes to this season's playoffs. Rinne has been on fire since the onset of last year's postseason. His surface-level stats are top-tier, but dive deeper and the numbers support his dominance even further. Posting a .939 even-strength save percentage and an .833 high-danger save percentage (eighth in the NHL, via Corsica Hockey), Rinne is the cream of the crop when it comes to goaltending this season.
Gibson is right there too, registering a .927 even-strength save percentage this season in 60 starts. In 22 career playoff starts, he has an .842 high-danger save percentage, the best over the past four postseasons. Then there's Quick. He is notably one of the best active playoff goalies in the NHL (perhaps the best), and to top it all off, he has produced his best statistical season in more than half a decade. Give me one of them and I would feel pretty damn good.
Chris Peters, NHL prospects writer: I'm still a big believer in Rinne as well. He wasn't amazing in last year's Stanley Cup Final and he has carried a heavy workload over the past two seasons, but he's on top of his game right now. Combine that with the way Nashville defends and the layers teams will have to have to cut through to try to score against the Preds and you and you can see why this team keeps opposing coaches up at night. As long as Rinne is healthy, I would definitely want him on my side heading into this postseason.
Which goalies do you trust the least in the playoffs?
Kaplan: I'm iffy on Keith Kinkaid of the New Jersey Devils -- or, even worse, a platoon situation between Kinkaid and Cory Schneider. Typically, teams are buoyed in the playoffs by their goaltender getting hot. I'll leave that option open for Kinkaid -- who helped will the Devils into the playoffs by allowing two goals or fewer in 13 of his past 20 starts, recording a .932 save percentage in that stretch. Kinkaid's larger body of work (.913 save percentage for the season), however, is less impressive. He's a solid backup who might find himself in over his head come playoff time. If the job ends up going to Schneider at any point? Well, we'd be asking him to play a lot better than he has since his return from a groin injury.
Arledge: I'm not so positive about Martin Jones or the Devils' duo of Kinkaid and Schneider. Jones is perhaps a surprise here because he brought the San Jose Sharks to the Final a couple of seasons ago, but I'm not too bullish on the 28-year-old. Aaron Dell almost stole the starting gig from Jones at the end of January, but Jones responded with a stout February. Since then, his production has dipped a good deal. Despite that lengthy playoff run in 2016, Jones owns a .778 playoff high-danger save percentage. Not great. New Jersey's Schneider has been in a serious funk since returning from injury, and Kinkaid isn't the guy I'd want to rely on in a seven-game series. Both candidates have disappointing numbers (neither breaks .915 at even strength or .799 in high-danger situations). Goaltending could be a big factor for both of these teams.
Wyshynski: I've seen a few of my colleagues here proclaim a lack of trust in Kinkaid, to which I'd ask whether they considered the alternative: Schneider has been a slice of Swiss cheese gently laid atop a sieve for the past two months. Like Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals, should Schneider see action, we just don't know what we'll see from him. We do know this: Sergei Bobrovsky, for all his regular-season mastery, has an .887 save percentage and a 3.63 goals-against average in 18 appearances for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. He has made 14 starts in the playoffs; three of them fell under the parameters of what defines a quality start. I love Bob -- just a little less so in the postseason.
Peters: When it comes to who I trust the least, it's probably Jonathan Bernier. With Semyon Varlamov ruled out for the first round against the Predators, it's Bernier's show for the Colorado Avalanche. He has made just one postseason start during his NHL career and has only five playoff appearances. Bernier's .886 playoff save percentage doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but it's also based on only 213 minutes of action. He also hasn't seen the Predators yet this season, which may not mean much, but going against the league's top team with all of your goalie experience coming from the bench is a bit of a concern. I don't know that Varlamov would have made Colorado feel much better about its chances in this series, but you'd have to think that his postseason experience, however sporadic, would be at least a little comforting.