Friday night featured five NHL matchups, but no goalie shined brighter than debuting top prospect Ilya Samsonov. Cory Schneider left the ice with injury, and a goalie in Russia made headlines with a big announcement.
Samsonov Shines in Debut
With Braden Holtby entering the final year of his contract, the future of the crease in America’s capital is cloudy. But the scene got a little less muddled with the debut of the 22-year-old Samsonov, not only the top prospect in the Washington Capitals’ system but arguably the best goaltending prospect in the entire NHL.
In his much-anticipated first NHL start, Samsonov was sensational. He stopped 25 of 26 shots and led the Capitals to victory in a nailbiter, a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders. It’s only one game, but he’s proving why he was the only goalie selected in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
With Holtby already at age 30, and the Capitals also facing the unrestricted free agency of Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin in the next two seasons, the future of their goaltending is very much in question. But with Samsonov in the fold, whether Holtby stays or leaves, the future is in safe hands.
Schneider Goes Down
File this one under “tough breaks.” After a play in the crease in Friday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider skated to the bench in discomfort. He left the ice and was replaced for the remainder of the game by MacKenzie Blackwood.
Early reports are mixed, but there’s reason to hope the injury is minor. Teammate Taylor Hall reportedly informed reporters he believed Schneider was dealing with cramps; however, head coach John Hynes suggested that doctors were still evaluating the goaltender after the game and were uncertain whether he would join the team on their upcoming road trip.
Hopefully, it’s nothing major as the oft-injured Schneider cannot afford another career setback. The Marblehead, Massachusetts native has had his three worst career seasons the past three campaigns and managed just 26 games in 2018-19 as he struggled to recover from hip surgery. With three years committed to Schneider at an average annual value of $6 million, the Devils have little recourse but to hope for a speedy recovery and a sudden return to form for the one-time Jennings Trophy winner.
Greiss is Nice
Hockey has many of the coolest traditions in sports, but one of the greatest of those is the goalie mask. Though he lost the start to newcomer teammate Semyon Varlamov, Thomas Greiss of the New York Islanders won major points with this tweet about his brand new lid for the 2019-20 season.
Well, not entirely brand new. The white design of the new mask is almost a carbon copy of his mask from last season. But if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! The wildly popular and extremely controversial Islanders Fisherman is prominently featured on the mask’s left side, so it’s sure to generate some debate. Our rating? Ten out of ten.
In an inspiring story out of Europe, 27-year-old Danish goaltender Jon Lee-Olson became the first openly gay male professional hockey player by coming out on Friday.
The NHL has yet to feature an openly gay player; however, the league is beginning to make some strides in addressing the issue within its ranks. Last season, all 31 NHL teams hosted a “pride night” as a form of outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. Lee-Olsen has yet to start this season but is contracted to Rungsted Seier Capital on the eastern coasts of Denmark.
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.