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Goalies the (really) early story of the playoffs

Goalie Roberto Luongo #1of the Vancouver Canucks looses sight of the puck as it flys by the net during the first period in NHL action against the Minnesota Wild on March 14, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Rich Lam/2011 Getty Images

We're all of eight games into the playoffs, so you don't want to draw too many conclusions. But after eight, with one played in each series, the story has been the goalies and just how difficult it's been to put the puck in the net.

There were only eight goals in the three games last night, making for just 27 goals - including one empty-netter - in the eight games so far.

Again, very small sample size, but that's 3.38 goals per game after averaging 5.46 during the year. Goaltenders have an incredible .949 save percentage, with Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller and Marc-Andre Fleury all picking up shutouts.

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Only 1.50 pucks have gone in for every 30 shots on goal.

The playoffs are generally lower scoring than the regular season, usually by as much as half a goal per game, but this is obviously lower than expected. And it's probably fair to expect that the goals will start going in soon.

One theory I heard floated out there last night after all of these big nights by name goalies is that this might be "the return of the big money goalie" after so many teams have been skimping on what they're paying their netminders.

A closer look reveals a lot of low salaried ones playing well.

Here's a breakdown of what the playoff teams (ranked by points) are paying their current No. 1 in terms of a cap hit:

  1. Vancouver, Roberto Luongo: $5.33-million (9th highest)
  2. Washington, Michal Neuvirth: $821,667 (not in top 50)
  3. Philadelphia, Sergei Bobrovsky: $1.75-million (30th)
  4. Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury: $5-million (T-11th)
  5. San Jose, Antti Niemi: $2-million (T-24th)
  6. Detroit, Jimmy Howard: $716,667 (not in top 50)
  7. Boston, Tim Thomas: $5-million (T-11th)
  8. Tampa Bay, Dwayne Roloson: $2.5-million (22nd)
  9. Anaheim, Dan Ellis: $1.5-million (T-32nd)
  10. Nashville, Pekka Rinne: $3.4-million (20th)
  11. Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov: $4.25-million (15th)
  12. Los Angeles, Jon Quick: $1.8-million (29th)
  13. Chicago, Corey Crawford: $800,000 (not in top 50)
  14. Montreal, Carey Price: $2.75-million (21st)
  15. Buffalo, Ryan Miller: $6.25-million (3rd)
  16. NY Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist: $6.875-million (1st)

Worth noting about that list? Look at how many of the 20 highest paid goaltenders in the NHL aren't even on it.

Jonas Hiller gets an exemption because he's hurt and would obviously be playing for the Ducks if he was able to, but consider these names who aren't even playing right now:

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Cam Ward, J-S Giguere, Niklas Backstrom, Mikka Kiprusoff, Tomas Vokoun, Cristobal Huet, Martin Brodeur, Rick DiPietro, Pascal Leclaire, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jaroslav Halak, Kari Lehtonen.

That's 60 per cent of the highest paid 20 goalies, all who make more than $3.5-million, and a good indication of how some big dollar, long-term goalie contracts can turn out only a few years after they were signed.

Meanwhile, there are a ton of low salaried goaltenders who played very well this season, including four rookies in Neuvirth, Bobrovsky, Crawford and James Reimer.

In other words, it's hard to pull a trend out of goaltender salaries other than, if you're going to pay a netminder a lot, you better make sure it's the right one.

So far, those in the playoffs are earning their money.

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