Friday night’s National Hockey League schedule was a bit on the light side as we head into a busy weekend. However, a rookie netminder made all kinds of history in Ohio. There was also a successful debut in Toronto to go along with an injury update.
Elvis is King of Rookie Goaltenders
Elvis Merzlikins wasn’t called upon very often on Friday night, but when he was, he was there to make the save. He stopped all 16 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings as the Columbus Blue Jackets improved to 9-0-1 in their last 10 games.
Since Jan. 11, Merzlikins is 8-0-0 with a sterling 1.00 goals-against average (GAA), a .967 save percentage (SV%) and five shutouts. The winning streak is the longest by a rookie goaltender in Blue Jackets’ history and the longest by any first-year netminder this season.
Only nine rookie goaltenders in the history of the game have won more than eight straight appearances during the same regular season. Jordan Binnington was the last to do it with the St. Louis Blues last season.
Last night’s shutout was his second in a row and fifth of his eight-game winning streak. It marked the second time in this span where he’s had shutouts in consecutive starts. He now leads all NHL goaltenders with five shutouts.
Merzlikins became just the sixth goaltender to earn five shutouts in eight games since the 1929-30 season, when forward passing was first allowed in all three zones. That list includes Brian Boucher, Ed Belfour, Tony Esposito, Bill Durnan and Frank Brimsek.
He also joins Brimsek, Tiny Tompson, and Dolly Dolson as the only rookies to have five shutouts in eight games. Merzlikins, Brimsek, Esposito, Terry Sawchuk and Jacques Plante are the only first-year goalies in league history to have consecutive shutouts multiple times in the same season. He has certainly put himself into some rare air.
Campbell Wins in Maple Leafs Debut
On Friday night, Auston Matthews became just the fifth player in team history to have multiple 40-goal seasons when he helped the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 in overtime. However, another former first-round pick, goaltender Jack Campbell, came up big when he had to, to win his Maple Leafs debut.
Campbell, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings earlier this week, made 26 saves to pick up his ninth win of the season between the two teams.
“I was a little nervous in the first period, but I was just really excited. When you care a lot, you get a little nervous,” Campbell said after the big win. “The boys played really well in front of me. Anytime you score five, that should be a win anytime. I’ll clean up my game, but I’m just really excited our team got two points.”
Campbell has had a long journey to get to Toronto after being selected 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Since being drafted he has played for the Windsor Spitfires and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL, the Texas Stars and Ontario Reign in the American Hockey League and now the Stars, Kings and Maple Leafs in the NHL.
Andersen to Miss Third Straight Game
Speaking of the Maple Leafs, the biggest reason Campbell was acquired is because of the injury to starting goaltender Frederik Andersen. The All-Star netminder has missed the last two games after injuring his neck against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. He has already been ruled out for tonight’s game at the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s a disruption, but we’re in a place where we think a disruption is healthy,” head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters before Friday’s game. “That’s what we talked about this morning. We’re moving on from what we’ve been through here the last couple games, giving up points. It’s a chance for new blood, new energy in the room and a new opportunity for us to have a good weekend.”
Keefe hinted that Campbell could start a second straight game since he had not played since Jan. 30 prior to last night’s victory. If he doesn’t go with Campbell, Michael Hutchinson will get the start. He has struggled this season with 3.66 GAA and .886 SV% in 15 games for the Maple Leafs.
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