Now that only four teams remain in the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Calder Cup Playoffs, it’s time to take a look at some of the top performers during this exciting playoff run, the goaltenders. The efforts of these five players have been nearly enough to keep all of their teams’ hopes alive. Houston Aeros netminder Matt Hackett is not on this list, but he gets an honorable mention, considering that he has helped the Aeros to the Western Conference Finals.
#5 Brad Thiessen
Tabbed the AHL’s top netminder during the regular season, Thiessen posted some fantastic numbers, 35 wins, 1.94 goals against average, and a .922 save percentage, to help lead his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the top record in the AHL. In the playoffs, Thiessen had to be even better behind a team that struggled to score goals. He was, posting a 1.67 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. However, that wasn’t enough, as he won only six times in 12 outings.
#4 Eddie Lack
A virtual unknown when he strode into the Vancouver Canucks’ training camp in September, Lack impressed the Canucks’ brass enough to see time with the Manitoba Moose. Within weeks, Lack had the Moose starting job, and was impressive, 28 wins, 2.26 goals against average, and .926 save percentage. In the playoffs, Lack was even better, posting a 1.99 goals against average, a .932 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. His best performance came in his final game, as he made 55 saves in a 2-1 3OT loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs in game seven last Monday.
#3 Drew MacIntyre
A goaltender who knows a bit about long Calder Cup Playoff runs, having backstopped the Moose in 2007 and the Milwaukee Admirals in 2009, MacIntyre has proven to be a steady over his career. He only played in 21 regular season games for the Bulldogs this season after he was acquired from the Chicago Wolves, but his impact was immediate, a 1.89 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in those games. After surrendering five goals in game two against the Moose, MacIntyre gave up only five goals over the next four games.
#2 Robin Lehner
Lehner bounced back and forth between the Binghamton Senators and their parent club, the Ottawa Senators all season long. In the process, the rookie posted a 2.70 goals against average and a .912 save percentage in 22 AHL games, not exactly sparkling numbers when compared to the others on this list. However, with his team trailing 3-0 to the Manchester Monarchs in the Atlantic Division Semifinals, head coach Kurt Kleinendorst turned to him in game four, and hasn’t looked back. Lehner won the next four games to carry the Senators into the Atlantic Division Finals, and has helped the Senators stake a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals despite being pulled in game one.
#1 Mike Murphy
After signing an entry level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009, Murphy has seen the Calder Cup Playoffs in both of his first two seasons. In 2010, he didn’t see any action, but he learned about the commitment needed to win. This season he’s shown what he learned, helping unseat the back-to-back Calder Cup champs, the Hershey Bears, in the East Division Semifinals with three straight wins after a game two loss. In the East Division Finals, Murphy stopped 44 Penguins’ shots in a game four shutout to push the AHL Regular Season champs to the brink.