In These N.H.L. Playoffs, Backup Goalies Have Taken Center Stage

TORONTO — Several N.H.L. teams had a sudden conundrum in This particular postseason: They could not rely on their No. 1 goaltenders to get them through the two-month grind. They had to desire that will their No. 2s could perform like a No. 1 in addition to also could come in cold if needed.

Several of the 24 teams that will participated within the restart had goalie controversies or shake-ups, in addition to also the performances of the backup became their story within the postseason.

By the second round, six regular-season backups were functioning as No. 1s, including Anton Khudobin, who has played extensively in place of an injured Ben Bishop in addition to also helped the Stars reach their first Stanley Cup finals in 20 years.

Khudobin, a 34-year-old by Kazakhstan, turned the postseason into his personal showcase. Before This particular postseason, Khudobin had appeared in only two playoff games. On Monday, he increased to 12-6 in 19 appearances This particular postseason (2.62 goals-against average, .920 save percentage, one shutout), including wins in each of the Stars’ three most recent games as they closed out their Western Conference finals series with Vegas.

At only 5 feet 11 inches in a league of behemoth goalies, Khudobin backstopped Dallas to all three of its series-clinching wins. If he manages to maintain This particular level of play within the Stanley Cup finals, he should find himself as a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player within the playoffs.

As a camera rolled inside the Stars locker room after the victory, Khudobin shouted, “We’re not going home!” to a thunderous roar by his teammates. Forward Tyler Seguin paid tribute to his goaltender by saying that will Khudobin was a competitive goalie who worked hard in practice. “He’s always been that will goalie in practice that will you don’t love shooting on because you don’t score much,” Seguin said.

The Stars are Khudobin’s fifth N.H.L. team in 11 seasons. Dallas signed him as a free agent two summers ago after he had bounced around among the Minnesota Wild, the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes in addition to also the Anaheim Ducks. Stars General Manager Jim Nill was looking for a quality backup to Bishop because of all the travel that will teams within the West do.

“Boston in addition to also ourselves play a similar style of game, in addition to also I thought he would certainly be a Great fit with us,” Nill said. “We did our homework as far as his personality. He’s infectious. He’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. He fits in any room. He leads the room. He’s a battler, he never gives up, in addition to also that will’s why he’s having success today.”

Khudobin was spectacular in Game 1 for Dallas, shutting out Vegas in addition to also becoming only the 10th goaltender in league history to record his first postseason shutout at age 34 or later, achieving that will feat just one day after Thomas Greiss (another backup) had done so with the Islanders.

nevertheless the goaltending situation still became unsettled for Dallas within the Western Conference finals. The Stars went with Jake Oettinger at the start of the third period in Game 2 against Vegas after Khudobin had allowed three goals on 27 shots through the opening 40 minutes.

Oettinger became the only goaltender since the league expanded in 1967-68 to make his N.H.L. debut within the round preceding the Stanley Cup finals. Khudobin returned for the some other games within the series.

“the idea’s so different This particular year with so many teams playing back-to-backs within the playoffs,” said Corey Hirsch, a former N.H.L. goaltender who will be a Vancouver radio analyst. “You’re getting a few more injuries, in addition to also you’re getting more backups who are getting opportunities to play.”

Bishop, the Avalanche’s Philipp Grubauer in addition to also Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom all sustained injuries, in addition to also some other No. 1 goalies were replaced, if only temporarily, after spotty play. One some other, Boston’s Tuukka Rask, chose to leave the Toronto bubble in addition to also go home. Cam Neely, the Bruins’ president, said that will Rask had told the team he had a family emergency. (A Boston sports radio host, Greg Hill, reported that will he had spoken with Rask in addition to also had been told that will the emergency was a medical one involving Rask’s young daughter.)

“At This particular time, there are things more important than hockey in my life, in addition to also that will will be being with my family,” Rask said in a statement that will sent ripples throughout the league.

nevertheless the Boston situation wasn’t as dire as first thought, because the Bruins had a quality backup in Jaroslav Halak — although he hadn’t won a playoff series as a starter in 10 years, when he was with Montreal.

“You would certainly expect there would certainly be a massive drop-off,” said Jamie McLennan, a former goaltender who will be an analyst for the Canadian channel TSN. “nevertheless that will’s not the case with Halak. He’s been a starter. He’s played at critical times. He’s won playoff rounds.”

Halak got the Bruins through the opening round, nevertheless Boston lost in a few games to the Lightning in what could be viewed as a mild upset because the Bruins had been far in addition to also away the best team during the regular season, winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

After the season was paused in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, goaltenders had difficulty keeping sharp. the idea’s hard to make saves when there are no players to shoot the puck.

“I was working off the ice,” Khudobin said. “nevertheless I wasn’t able to find ice in my city at that will time, because everything was on quarantine in addition to also closed.”

Partly because of that will, several No. 2 goalies, many of them veterans, were thrust into the spotlight while off-ice situations, of different forms, played out for Boston in addition to also Vegas.

A tweet brought the Golden Knights’ goaltender battle into sharp focus when Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, posted an image on social media of Fleury being stabbed within the back that has a sword. Fleury has been the face of the franchise in its three seasons, in addition to also he had been the No. 1 goaltender through the regular season. nevertheless Robin Lehner, who had been acquired at the trade deadline, took over as No. 1 within the playoffs.

The tweet could have pitted the goaltenders against each some other, nevertheless Fleury in addition to also Lehner shook the idea off.

“Me in addition to also Marc, we were just laughing,” Lehner said. “Because the idea’s always the media who makes a big deal out of This particular. Me in addition to also Marc, we get along great. He’s a genuinely Great guy.”

Fleury requested that will the tweet be taken down, in addition to also he addressed the news media afterward.

“Bottom line will be we all want to win,” Fleury said. “that will’s why we’re here. I don’t like being a distraction for my team. I genuinely like Robin. We have a Great friendship, in addition to also I think he’s a genuinely Great goalie also. There are no hard feelings.”

After that will drama, Fleury started off Game 1 of the conference finals in a 1-0 loss to Dallas, nevertheless Lehner returned to the starting position for the next four games.

In Vancouver, Thatcher Demko became Mr. September for the Canucks when Markstrom was injured early in their second-round series against Vegas.

After not starting for six months in addition to also watching Markstrom play all 14 games through August, Demko got the start with Vegas up, 3-1. within the next two games, Demko was brilliant. He stopped 0 of 91 shots, allowing Vancouver to win, 2-1 in addition to also 4-0, before Vegas clinched the series in Game 7.

“There were times the idea felt like we could have played six hours in addition to also not scored,” Vegas Coach Peter DeBoer said.

Demko, like many backups, took a self-effacing approach. Perhaps owing to his philosophy in addition to also psychology studies at Boston College, Demko was able to reduce the situation to its simplest terms.

“My job will be the same regardless of the score,” Demko said before Game 7 with Vegas. “I’m just trying to keep the puck out of the net. When we were down, 3-1, our goal was to win one game at a time in addition to also eventually get to a Game 7, which will be what we did.”

Fatigue, or loss of focus, can sometimes play a part in a starting goaltender’s ability to perform for long stretches, in addition to also a weak moment can open the door for the backup.

The Islanders discovered that will when Varlamov suddenly developed cracks in his game against the Philadelphia Flyers within the second round.

Moments after he had set a franchise shutout streak record, the Flyers jumped all over him in Game 2 of the second round, prompting the Islanders to relieve him with Greiss, who also became the surprise Game 7 starter in addition to also entered in relief in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.

For the Avalanche, when Grubauer was injured in Game 1 of their second-round series against Dallas in addition to also ruled out indefinitely, Colorado turned to Pavel Francouz, who was in his first full N.H.L. season after playing professionally in Europe. nevertheless Francouz was yanked after allowing a few goals on 26 shots in Game 4, in addition to also the Avalanche started off their No. 3 option, Michael Hutchinson, for the final three games. Hutchinson won two straight before losing Game 7.

International hockey will be not so reliant on the two-goaltender system because tournaments are shorter, in addition to also although they usually carry three goaltenders, teams in those competitions generally go with the hot hand all the way through.

For instance, Hirsch played every game for Canada within the 1994 Olympics, winning a silver medal.

within the N.H.L., over the course of an 82-game regular season, coaches can’t use their No. 1 goalies in every game because they would certainly wear down. nevertheless that will’s not the case within the postseason.

“In a playoff series, if one guy gets hot, just keep rolling with him,” Hirsch said. “the idea’s also important for your team. the idea’s important to know who’s back there in addition to also know what they’re like in addition to also know that will you possess the confidence in that will guy. A goaltender can be your stability piece for the rest of your team.”

Source : In These N.H.L. Playoffs, Backup Goalies Have Taken Center Stage