The NHL’s goalies didn’t win the day on Wednesday, which featured four high-scoring games. But goalies are never short of headline-making moments, which we’ll cover in today’s Goalie News.
Kuemper and Demko Duel
The Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks are fighting for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and on Wednesday, they faced off for two critical points. Unfortunately, because of a recent injury to Jacob Markström, the Canucks came in shorthanded in goal. It would fall to Thatcher Demko to shoulder the burden from the squad from British Columbia, facing off against Darcy Kuemper, making just his second start since returning from a serious injury of his own.
Though the final score was 4-2, both goalies performed well. Demko 36 saves on 39 shots in a losing effort, giving him a .923 save percentage (SV%). The Coyotes generated 3.44 expected goals (xG), with their final tally coming on the empty net. Lawson Crouse deflected the winning goal past Demko at 12:39 in the third period.
As good as Demko was, Kuemper had an even better performance. He made 36 saves as well, facing only 38 shots. But the quality of opportunity he faced was much higher. The Canucks managed 18 high danger chances (HDCF), almost every other shot they took. It was good for 3.71 xG. But Kuemper kept them at bay, and because of him, the Coyotes got the win and a critical two points. After the game, the game-winning goal scorer described what the win meant for his team.
We want to do something special in this locker room, and for the state of Arizona. And, obviously, tonight’s a big example of that, and we’ve just gotta keep going for the rest of the road trip.Crouse describes the Coyotes’ ambitions
The Coyotes, who have 14 games remaining, play the next two on the road before returning to the desert for an extended homestand. They will face the Calgary Flames on Friday. Despite the loss, the Canucks still sit in the driver’s seat with 16 games remaining on their schedule. The Coyotes and Canucks will meet two more times this season: Mar. 12 and Apr. 2, the penultimate game of the season, which could be decisive in the playoff race. Both games will take place in Arizona.
NHL’s Best Saves in February
Every month, the NHL releases a Youtube compilation of the greatest saves of the month, and February was no exception. It may have had one fewer day than the standard month, but it was still plenty of time for the league’s top netminders to show what they’re capable of.
Watch at about 9:50 for maybe the most impressive save of the month, the save pictured in the thumbnail above. That would be 38-year-old Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators making a windmill pad save against Zach Hyman of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who was in on a breakaway. There were plenty of great saves in the month of February, but this one was truly a sight to see.
Of course, the video ends with maybe the most unbelievable save of the season. 42-year-old David Ayres, a facilities manager turned Emergency Backup Goaltender (EBUG) got his chance at a miracle on ice against the Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. We all know the rest of the story. Ayres and the Carolina Hurricanes won the game, the stick went to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the man himself will live forever in the legends of hockey lore.
Goalie Gram: Lehner’s a Panda
Robin Lehner is a unique netminder, a former winner of the Bill Masterton and Jennings Trophy, and, most recently, a new member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Among the many things he’s accrued over his career is a relatively recent nickname: Panda.
While Lehner refuses to reveal the origin of the name, he’s clearly taken it as a badge of honor. He’s made it a part of his robust social media persona, and now, it’s a part of his equipment, too. His new pads feature a small panda insignia on the side. The helmet might not be in yet, but the gear looks great, and the acquisition gives the Golden Knights one of the best tandems in the league. Good luck the rest of the way, Panda!
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.