As we head into the final and extra day of February, the playoff races across the National Hockey League are tightening up. There was a big debut in Vegas to extend a winning streak. We saw another shutout in the Wild organization, which is nothing new. Plus, we wish happy birthday to the only NHL goalie to be born on this date.
Lehner Wins Vegas Debut
Robin Lehner was the biggest goaltending name moved on trade deadline day when he was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. He made his debut in Sin City on Saturday night, making 32 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
Lehner allowed a goal of the first shot he saw in a Golden Knights uniform. He then settled down to make 32 straight saves before giving up a second goal on Buffalo’s final shot of the night.
“You just get traded, you want to go do your best and give the guys a chance to win,” Lehner said after the game. “It wasn’t that many shots in the second (six), but there were some good chances. Then they came out in the third and took care of me.”
The victory was the Golden Knights’ eighth in a row, matching the longest winning streak in franchise history. They also became the first team in league history to post multiple win streaks of a least eight games through its first three seasons of play.
Wild Pick Up Another Shutout
The Minnesota Wild have been making a late-season push for a Stanley Cup playoff spot after going 12-5-1 in their last 18 games. With their 5-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, they are now just one point out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Blue Jackets’ goaltender Joonas Korpisalo made his first start since Dec. 29 and was pulled in the second period after giving up four goals on 15 shots. Alex Stalock made 24 saves to pick up his fourth shutout of the season and ninth of his NHL career.
“It’s amazing. It’s momentum,” Stalock during his postgame meeting with reporters. “It’s a momentum-type situation, and we’ve been on a roll. We just seem to keep rolling, rolling and going and going.”
The Wild now has six shutouts on the season, which ties them with Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes for the second-most in the NHL this season. They all trail the Blue Jackets who have seven shutouts, five of those coming from Elvis Merzlikins.
Shutting out opponents is something that happens throughout the organization. Kaapo Kahkonen, who has made five NHL starts this season, currently leads the American Hockey League with six shutouts. He has 12 shutouts in his AHL career which is the most in Iowa Wild franchise history.
His shutout totals are pretty impressive when you consider this is only his second full season in North America. Kahkonen has made 71 starts and won 41 games in the AHL. He has been averaging a shutout every six starts and nearly 30% of his wins have come without allowing a goal.
Happy Birthday, Cam Ward
There have only been nine players who were born on Feb. 29 to have suited up for an NHL game. Cam Ward is the only goaltender to ever play in the league who was born on Leap Day.
Ward’s career came to end following the 2018-19 season. He finished with 334 wins, a 2.74 goals-against average (GAA) and .908 save percentage (SV%) in 701 career regular-season games with the Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks.
He was only on two teams to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he was very good when he did get into the postseason. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable playoffs of the 2006 playoffs. He posted a 2.14 GAA and .920 SV% leading the Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup in franchise history as a rookie.
Ward played well in his second and final playoff run in 2009, with a 2.67 GAA and .915 SV% helping Carolina make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Happy Birthday, Cam!
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Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.