May 5 — Hot Seats, Saves, & 2022 Playoff Atmospheres

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

CANES LOSE RAANTA, WIN GAME 2: Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov was the unlikely hero for the Carolina Hurricanes, replacing an injured Antti Raanta and making 35 saves in leading the Canes to a 5-1 victory over the Boston Bruins and a 2-0 series lead. Raanta followed starting goalie Frederik Andersen to the sidelines after being struck by Boston’s David Pastrňák in the first period.

LIGHTNING STRIKE BACK: After getting blown out 5-0 in Game 1, the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning bounced back last night, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3. The Lightning dominated most of the game, leading 5-1 midway through the third before holding off Toronto’s surge to win by two goals.

DOMINGUE-ING TO THE RESCUE: One day after making 17 saves to earn the triple-overtime victory in relief for Casey DeSmith, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced Louis Domingue as the starter for Game 2. It will be the 30-year-old Domingue’s first postseason start, while DeSmith is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

KINGS OF THE COMMUNITY: Yesterday, the NHL announced the nominees from the 32 franchises for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. Chosen by a board of NHL executives annually, the award acknowledges the player who “best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”

SMITH SILENCES SKEPTICS: Bouncing back from a blunder that cost the Edmonton Oilers a victory in Game 1, Mike Smith made 30 saves to even the series with a 6-0 shoutout. Evander Kane had two goals and an assist, while Ryan McLeod, Connor McDavid, and Evan Bouchard contributed two points. 

IF HAT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED: Less than a minute after it appeared that Joel Eriksson Ek scored his third goal to record the first playoff hat trick in Minnesota Wild history, Kirill Kaprizov tallied his third to accomplish the feat. St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube challenged Eriksson Ek’s goal for an offside infraction, overturning the historical marker. Minnesota won the game 6-2 to tie the series at one game. 

Top Shelf Thursday – Top 2022 Playoff Atmospheres

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a poor playoff atmosphere, but some stand out more than others. This year we are finally seeing a normal postseason after two years of dealing with COVID-19. It has been delightful to see arenas filled with excited fans, and even though we are only three days in, we decided to look at three atmospheres that have us ready to book a flight.

PNC Arena

There is something special about seeing a playoff game in Raleigh, North Carolina. Between the tailgating and the storm surge, fans receive the complete entertainment experience in addition to 60 minutes of hockey. Max Domi was traded to Carolina on March 21 and said the atmosphere was insane for Game 1 at PNC Arena. It has been two years since we have seen a typical postseason atmosphere, and the Caniacs have not disappointed these first two games of Round 1. 

Scotiabank Arena

Something is different about the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Signs point to this being the year that the team finally advances past the first round, and the fans are ready for it. Auston Matthews dominated the regular season with 60 goals and, along with Mitch Marner, have each scored playoff goals, while goaltender Jack Campbell has earned a shutout. It has been wonderful to see a sold-out barn and the thousands of fans in the streets supporting the Leafs for Games 1 and 2. 

Scotiabank Saddledome

The “C of Red” is out in full force in Calgary, as the Flames have been a top team for most of the regular season and entered the playoffs as a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Approximately 19,289 fans showed up to embrace the most exhilarating time of the season. For the first time in three years, the Flames and their fans are together again for what could be a long playoff run. In Game 1, Jacob Markstrom and the team’s penalty kill unit stole the show shutting out their opponent in front of an electric crowd. 

Saving the Day: Highest Playoff Save Totals

Tuesday night brought us the first overtime game of the 2022 NHL Postseason, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers went three extra periods. The Penguins finally broke through with an Evgeni Malkin goal 5:58 into the third overtime, but not before New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 79 saves, the second-most in a Stanley Cup Playoff game since the league started tracking shots on goal in 1955-56.

Despite a team-record save total from Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers dropped Game 1 against the Penguins Tuesday night (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Shesterkin, the likely Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie, gave up four goals in the Game 1 loss. His 79 saves were a franchise record, surpassing Gump Worsley, who stopped 56 shots in a playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1962 (and has a great name). In the wake of Shesterkin’s historic performance in goal, here is a look at the players with the most saves in a single playoff game.

85 – Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets (8/11/2020)

The highest number of saves made in a single game in NHL history, regular season or postseason, is 85, achieved by Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo in the wacky 2020 Postseason, which was pushed back to August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was a losing effort, but Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo set an NHL record in Game 1 of the 2020 playoffs against the Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Because the pandemic halted the 2019-20 regular season early, the NHL tinkered with the playoff format, adding a 16-team qualifying round before the first round. Thanks to this, the Blue Jackets, who finished 11th in the Eastern Conference, got a postseason opportunity, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the qualifying round to set up a first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, whom they’d shockingly swept in the opening round the year before.

Game 1 went five overtimes (90:27 in total), making it the fourth-longest game in NHL history. Korpisalo played all 90-plus minutes for the Jackets, stopping 85 of 88 shots in a 3-2 Columbus loss. The Lightning went on to win the series in five games, win the Stanley Cup, and win the Stanley Cup again the following season for good measure.

73 – Kelly Hrudey, New York Islanders (4/18/1987)

Kelly Hrudey didn’t make as many saves as Korpisalo or Shesterkin, but the New York goaltender did get a better result. During the 1986-87 regular season, the Islanders and Washington Capitals finished second and third in the Patrick Division, respectively.

Kelly Hrudley has the third-most saves in an NHL playoff game and the most in a game that he won (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

The two division foes faced off in the first round of the playoffs. It was a hard-fought series that went the distance, as Game 7 was a microcosm of the series. Hrudey put together a Herculean effort in net, stopping 73 of 75 shots while the teams battled into a fourth overtime. Despite being outshot 75-57, the Islanders pulled out the 3-2 victory. New York went to seven games again in the next round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, coming up short.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

While there was no bombardment of pink slips this past Monday in the aftermath of the 2021-22 regular season, the Detroit Red Wings did not retain Jeff Blashill, while Mike Yeo’s short stay as interim head coach in Philadelphia has reportedly come to an end. However, if you are an NHL bench boss with a potentially tenuous grasp on your role, it may not be quite the time to exhale yet. 

We are seeing lingering insecurity across the league as executives continue to weigh what direction to go in behind the bench and, possibly, wait for coaches employed by current playoff teams to come available. Let’s catch up on where we stand with coaches in precarious positions around the NHL:

Bruce Boudreau, Vancouver Canucks

Bruce Boudreau (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fans in Vancouver may not be long for those “Bruuuce! There it is!” chants. While Bruce Boudreau quickly gained popularity among Canucks faithful for engineering a quick turn-around after a disastrous start and keeping Vancouver in the playoff picture deep into the season, team president Jim Rutherford doesn’t sound so convinced. Rutherford made it clear that the club wouldn’t extend Boudreau beyond the year he has left on his contract, which doesn’t bode well for his future in BC.

Dave Lowry, Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets Interim Head Coach Dave Lowry, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dave Lowry has spent two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, including 56 games in a head coaching capacity. So when you announce a coaching search and allow Lowry to interview for the job, as GM Kevin Cheveldayoff did, it’s less a generous offer and more a transparent sign that you’re moving on. It’s also possible that throwing Lowry a bone has something to do with his son, Adam Lowry, still employed by the Jets.

Pete DeBoer, Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Guiding your team from Stanley Cup hopeful to out of the playoff picture offers a pretty solid guarantee of being a hot seat candidate. In his third season with the Vegas Golden Knights, Pete DeBoer finds himself there despite sporting a .650 points percentage (98-50-12) with the club. Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon acknowledged a sit-down meeting planned with DeBoer this week but would only say that “Pete is under contract.” Oof.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket

Stanley Cup Playoffs Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule