Goalies are very quick to get labelled based on their playoff performance, usually much more quickly than other players. It is not unusual to read, for instance, that Martin Gerber has a weak playoff record, despite only playing a career total of 241 minutes before 2008, most of it battling sickness. But are these labels really justified? Can every goalie be neatly divided into the camp of choker or clutch?
My view is that nobody is a choker. Play long enough, and everyone will end up simply playing at their skill level. To make it to the NHL, all goalies have been in dozens of pressure-filled situations. If there was a goalie that couldn't handle the pressure, he would wash out in junior or college or the minor leagues when his performance suffered under the pressure of playoffs or a playoff race or the knowledge that there were professional scouts in the stands. Much is made of how the game changes in the playoffs, but it doesn't change at all for goalies - the shots come in and you try to stop them, regardless of the number of penalties called or the amount of hitting.
For example, take Marty Turco. He had a good playoff year, then two bad ones in a row. People started questioning his playoff abilities. Then what happened last year? 1.29 GAA and .952 save percentage in a 7 game series. He wasn't a choker, he just was overdue for some good performances. Even the best goalies have bad playoffs and good playoffs; everyone remembers Patrick Roy in 1986, 1993, and 2001, but he also had 1987, 1991, and 1998. Just because one guy had a bad playoffs or two already doesn't mean he is mentally weak, it just means that most likely there are some good times still on the way. Turco has a spotty playoff record, and his first round opponent Giguere has a great one, but does that really have any bearing at all on what is going to happen between them over the next 2 weeks? After game one, it sure doesn't look like it.
To try to test my position, I am looking for goalies who had substantially worse records in the playoffs than in the regular season, over a significantly large number of games. This should not simply be a function of the weakness of their teams or the strength of their opponents, but a clear deterioration in their play. If you have any suggestions, or other evidence that relates to the topic of "clutchness", please post it in the comment thread.