Since we started doing our daily Goalie News posts at the beginning of the season, we have talked about many of the top goaltending starts in the National Hockey League. Veterans like Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask are household names that get mentioned here on a regular basis. However, today we will take a look at three possible future goaltending stars.
Primeau Nabs First NHL Win
Cayden Primeau is one of the most intriguing goaltending prospects, especially after his meteoric rise to the NHL. This time last season, Primeau was playing college hockey for Northeastern University and now he is backing up Carey Price with the Montreal Canadiens.
On Wednesday night, Primeau picked up his first-ever NHL win with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators. The 20-year-old netminder made 35 saves in just his second career start.
“You know you want to get your first win during your first game, but it’s a learning experience,” Primeau said following his memorable evening. “I took that over the weekend and really worked towards it. It’s been a roller coaster, being able to be called up, especially to a team like this, an organization like this. It’s crazy.”
It is very rare for goaltenders to achieve NHL success at such a young age. In the long and storied history of the Montreal Canadiens, only four goaltenders recorded their first NHL win at a younger age than Primeau. One of those goaltenders was Price. The other three are Len Broderick, Patrick Roy and Jose Theodore.
The last goaltender to earn his first NHL victory before his 21st birthday was Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, who did it on Dec. 18, 2018.
Flat Out Robbery in Denver
Speaking of Hart and the Flyers, the young netminder had the save of the night, and possibly of the year, on Wednesday. With Mikko Rantanen bearing down on him for what looked to be a sure goal, Hart was able to snag the puck out of midair with a sneaky fast glove hand.
Rantanen would get the last laugh as he scored two goals in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-1 victory. They are 7-0-1 in their last eight games and have moved into first place of the Central Division, passing the St. Louis Blues.
Hart has rebounded nicely from a bit of a slow start to his season. After given up three or more goals in four of his first six starts, he has held teams to under three goals in nine of his last 13 starts. He is now 10-5-4 with a 2.43 goals-against average (GAA) and .908 save percentage (SV%).
Lankinen Has a Night for the Ages
Tuesday night I made the short trip from Chicago to Rockford to cover the American Hockey League tilt between the Milwaukee Admirals and the hosting IceHogs. I had no idea I would be witness to one of the greatest goaltending performances I have ever seen in person.
The first-place Admirals came out firing right out of the gates and keep the pressure on IceHogs goaltender Kevin Lankinen all night long. After the end of the first period, they had a 19-2 advantage in shots on goal, but the game was scoreless.
Things evened up a bit in the second period with the Admirals only outshooting the IceHogs 12-9 during the frame, which saw the home team break the scoreless tie. They absolutely dominated the third period, outshooting the IceHogs 25-2. They finally tied the game on their 48th shot of the night on a play where the puck barely crossed the line and needed to be reviewed.
The IceHogs stole two points when Anton Wedin scored just over a minute into overtime. In the end, the Admirals outshot the IceHogs 56-14 and lost. Hockey can be brutal at times.
Lankinen’s previous AHL career-high in saves was 42, which he had beat midway through the third period. His 55 saves broke Rockford’s franchise record for the most in a game and he was the first IceHogs’ goaltender to make at least 50 saves in a regular-season game. Kent Simpson, Michael Leighton and Anton Forsberg all were tied for the previous high with 49 saves.
“Not in a regulation game,” Lankinen replied when asked if he had ever faced that many shots before. “In the playoffs, we’ve done some pretty long games, in the past, back home (in Finland). In 60 minutes, that is way past the record I’ve ever had.”
Lankinen has been the best goaltender for the IceHogs this season with a 6-3-1 record to go along with his 2.58 GAA and .927 SV%.