The Impact of Goalies on the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Stanley Cup playoffs are impacted by goalie play more than anything. One player has more of an influence on an NHL hockey playoff game than such a game in any other professional sport. 

Key Points

– Goalie play has a huge impact on games in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

– Bettors that can measure goalie consistency have a great chance of success when betting the NHL playoffs.

A Thankless Job

Few things are as thankless as being an NHL goalie in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Experienced sports bettors know this. If your team wins, you’re a hero. If you don’t, well… Even when you do win, it’s not like you are the premier scorer or defenseman on your team.

However, the likelihood is high that you will bear the bulk of the blame when your team loses. Goalies receive such treatment because their work is so crucial. A goalie has the greatest influence on the outcome of a Stanley Cup playoff game than any other player. 

Since goalies are the most crucial position for NHL bettors to correctly assess and handicap, you have to be well-versed in how to assess them.

The two well-padded men in the nets should be your first stop when analyzing how the teams will match up in a postseason game. If there is a mismatch, there is going to be a mismatch throughout the entire series. That means you have to look for these significant factors. 



Compared to the regular season, the Stanley Cup playoffs are markedly more intense. The magnitude of each game rises the closer a team gets to winning a series or even the Cup itself. 

The pressure can take its toll on players. For a goalie, that pressure is even more profound. They are the final line of defense and when an opposing goal is scored, it’s the goalie who is seen on television. 

It’s hard, but bettors must look past the simple stats. For example, a goalie has a 2.00 goals against average. Comparatively speaking, that sounds pretty good, but does it show how consistent the goalie has been? 

A goalie may have allowed four goals in a game and then followed that up with a shutout. Over those two games his GAA is 2.00. Now, if a bettor looked at each game and found that the goalie gave up two goals in each game, then you would have a great picture of how consistent he has been. 

The bottom line is that betting the playoffs requires bettors to go a little deeper in analyzing goalie play.

Goalies vs. the Opposition in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

If the hockey player has faced the opposition a lot recently, this can be a reliable indicator of how the player might fare. However, the sample size of games is probably too small to be useful in this case.

When handicapping the Stanley Cup Finals, for instance, NHL teams only play opponents from the opposing conference once or twice a year. Only if the goalie had recently competed in the opposing conference or if the teams had met in the previous season’s finals would the sample size be large enough. 

Only divisional opponents play each other enough in a single season to generate a decent sample size. The betting public will tend to place too much emphasis on this factor.

Recent Form in Stanley Cup Playoffs

We previously discussed consistency, but in NHL handicapping, it doesn’t matter how consistent a player is if he hasn’t been successful. It is difficult to trust a hockey team in the playoffs if their goalie has not been playing at a high level.

Recent changes in the NHL mean that good enough is no longer acceptable. A team that has experienced goalie problems of any kind is unlikely to advance to the finals, and even if they do, they will likely face formidable obstacles. The NHL team with the better goaltending will almost certainly have an advantage in the series if one goalie’s performance is noticeably superior to the other’s. 

The Intimidation Factor

Some guys can withstand extreme pressure. Others give in to it and crumble. Even great goalies can struggle under pressure. 

Go back to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Roberto Luongo, an elite star who led Vancouver to play for the Cup, performed horribly once there. Bettors eventually caught on.

Making bets will go more smoothly if you have a better understanding of how a player in the net might react under pressure. 

The Series Matchup

A playoff goalie may have to face his opponents over the course of up to seven straight games. He might be in for a good series if he matches up well against that opponent. He may be in serious trouble if he has flaws that the opposing team can use against him. 

Perhaps he struggles to stop big shots from the point and the opposition has a few defensemen with cannons. Maybe the opposition has a lot of speedsters and the goalie has trouble stopping breakaways. This might lead bettors to wager on the NHL puck line.

He could be weaker on the glove side, and the opposing team might have snipers who can locate the gaps. It’s crucial for NHL handicappers to determine whether or not this specific matchup will present a challenge for the goaltender.

Public Betting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Some goalies are held in very high regard by the general public. Others may not even be known to the public. 

Goalies are similar to football quarterbacks or starting pitchers in baseball. The public will generally view a team based upon that one single player. It’s the same in hockey.

This bias is something that smart bettors should understand when they begin handicapping the Stanley Cup playoffs.