Is there a goalie that can put Los Angeles or Seattle over the top?
The Los Angeles Kings and Seattle Kraken are so close to being legitimate Stanley Cup contenders right now, this season. They just need better goaltending.
Here is a potential hot take for the NHL season as we approach the holiday break: I think the Los Angeles Kings or Seattle Kraken could realistically win the Western Conference this season if they just find a way to improve their goaltending.
Or if they can find a better goalie.
Or if they can just simply get one of the goalies on their roster to go on some kind of a second half heater.
Goaltending is the most maddening position in hockey. It is tough to evaluate unless you really know what you are looking for in terms of positioning and fundamentals, and it is almost impossible to project from a performance standpoint even when you do know what to look for and what you are looking at.
If you get a top-tier goaltending performance, there is a good chance that you might think your team is better than it actually is.
If you get a bottom-tier goaltending performance, there is a good chance you might think your team is worse than it actually is.
It is the single most impactful position in hockey, and it completely changes games, playoff series, and entire seasons. It is the game’s ultimate X-factor. And in Los Angeles and Seattle, I see two teams that have a lot of ingredients to win, and win big right now, that are going to potentially be held back by sub-par goaltending.
In a lot of ways, both of them remind me of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.
If you think back to that Blues team they did pretty much everything well. They were sound defensively, they had a good enough offense, they had top-tier players at every position, and they were in a definite win-now mode. But halfway through the season they were buried at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and looked like a team that was going nowhere.
The coaching change from Mike Yeo to Craig Berube certainly played a role in their turnaround, but the biggest factor was Jordan Binnington coming up from the American Hockey League and replacing Jake Allen and Chad Johnson as the primary goalie. Binnington’s career has certainly regressed from that year, and for as much of a problem as he might be right now four years later, he DID help turn that season around and give the Blues the stable goaltending they needed to win it all.
I see some similarities between that situation, and this year’s situation in Los Angeles and Seattle, even if the Kings and Kraken are in a slightly better position in the standings than that Blues team was at this point. Both are currently in the playoff mix, but I feel like they are just missing this one thing to really put them over the top.