The New Jersey Devils have found new life and new hope in the last few games.
What a difference a week makes as the Devils and their new goaltending hero Akira Schmid are peaking at the right time in the playoffs and are poised to advance to the next round – if they can take care of business.
The first two playoff games were a disaster for the Devils.
In Games One and Two of the playoffs, the New York Rangers essentially had the Devils’ number. Outscoring the Devils 10-2 in those games, the Blueshirts were operating on all cylinders and systematically took apart the Devils’ defense. Veteran netminder Vitek Vanecek was hammered incessantly, but he also received little defensive support. The goal-leaking in the first two games can be attributed to as much bad defensive play as lousy goaltending.
A funny thing happened on the way to Game Three for the Devils.
Devils’ head coach Lindy Ruff decided to make a change and put in rookie goaltender Akira Schmid for Game Three to replace the reeling Vanecek. A funny thing happened in this game – the Devils won and only gave up one goal to the Rangers. Schmid started Game Four, and the same thing happened – the Devils won again and only gave up one more goal to the Rangers.
If you’ve been under a rock for the past few days and don’t listen to any sports news, Akira Schmid and Company shut out the Rangers 4-0 this past Thursday night. The gamble on the rookie goalie has paid off huge dividends for the Devils, and they are on the cusp of clinching a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs on Saturday night.
Akira Schmid: Playoff Hero?
For Akira Schmid, the rise to instant stardom has been earned with his stellar play between the pipe. Giving up only two goals in three games, registering 80 saves with a .976 save percentage and a .63 goals-against average is the stuff of instant legends. The Rangers will undoubtedly throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Schmid to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive, but if he can survive the coming onslaught, Akira Schmid may soon earn a new nickname: The Ranger Killer. By the way, the last time the New Jersey Devils used a rookie goalie in the playoffs was back in 1992 with some guy named Martin Brodeur. Well, Devils fans, you know the rest of that story.