I often point out how many overrate the importance of goaltending, and that plenty of good teams have had success with average goalies. However, that certainly does not mean bad goaltending cannot be very costly in some situations. I think there have been quite a few examples of very good teams who were dominant in the regular season but found themselves at a disadvantage when they went up against strong playoff opponents getting much better play between the pipes.
To try to identify some teams that were let down by goaltending, I looked at which teams had the best adjusted win threshold over five consecutive years without winning a Stanley Cup in that time span:
1. Boston Bruins (1974-1978) .849
2. Detroit Red Wings (1992-1996), .853
3. Boston Bruins (1980-1984), .863
4. New York Rangers (1971-1975), .864
5. St. Louis Blues (1998-2002), .865
6. Philadelphia Flyers (1976-1980), .865
7. Buffalo Sabres (1974-1978), .866
8. Ottawa Senators (2001-2006), .868
9. Calgary Flames (1990-1994), .871
10. Philadelphia Flyers (1996-2000), .871
Four of these teams won a Cup either shortly before or shortly after this particular streak, but six of them never won a single Championship despite putting together an excellent group of skaters.
Most of these teams may very well have won with a better netminder, but there are two legitimate reasons why that might not have been the case: Strength of opposition and the playoff performance of the rest of the team.
Sometimes even great teams are left playing second fiddle to an even greater team. The 1970s Bruins and 1970s Sabres teams had the misfortune of running up against the great Flyers and Habs teams of that decade. The 1980s Calgary Flames are another classic example. Despite averaging an .870 adjusted win threshold for an entire decade (1984-85 to 1993-94), the Flames won just a single Stanley Cup. I can sympathize with having to compete against a prime Wayne Gretzky, but the early '90s Flames don't have the same ready-made excuse of simply having a more powerful cross-province rival. That suggests more scrutiny needs to fall on the performance of Mike Vernon.
In other cases, it might have been the skaters that underperformed in the playoffs. For the most part, good regular season teams end up being good playoff teams, but there are some exceptions. One pretty clear example of that is the case of the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa's team save percentage actually improved from .910 in the regular season to .921 in the playoffs between 2001 and 2006. The team lost because they stopped scoring: Ottawa scored nearly a full goal per game higher in the regular season (3.27) than in the playoffs (2.29). That means Ottawa's adjusted win threshold went from an excellent .871 to a very average .905. Lalime and Emery may have had a few bad moments, but the goalies should not be the scapegoats for the Senators' spring collapses.
What do you think? Were these 10 teams let down by goaltending? Are there any other examples that did not make the list?