Akira Schmidt appeared in just 18 NHL games before those playoffs began, but is 22 years old since replacing Bitek Vanessek, who was struggling with a Devils goal in Game 3 against the Rangers. The rookie has been key to the team’s turnaround.
He was tall again in Thursday’s 4-0 win at the Prudential Center, outpacing Igor Shesterkin and putting the Devils on the verge of knocking out their rivals for a 3-2 series lead.
Game 6 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Schmidt was solid throughout, making some excellent early saves as the Devils built a three-goal lead by the end of the second period.
He finished with 23 saves as the Devils outscored the Rangers 42–23.
Schmidt was solid, but he was largely untested — the Devils completely dominated play.
That’s why, when asked about the change in fortunes since adding Schmidt to the lineup, Devils head coach Lindy Ruff complimented his team as a whole.
“Relax and go back to playing better,” Ruff said.
Regarding the first two one-sided losses, Ruff said: It had something to do with groups. The group did not play well in front of him. “
And Raf reiterated that his switch to the net was more of a premonition.
“Realistically, when we tried it in Game 3, the whole group said they needed to play better, handle the puck better and play their game to defend Vitek. I noticed,” said Ruff. “I feel the group did.”
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In the first period, Schmidt successfully stopped shots from Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanezado and Ryan Lindgren. And the second time, Schmidt reacted favorably to the kappo brackets at the entrance.
In the second half of the second, Schmidt stoned Vincent Trocek to continue the shutout.
Before the game, Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant praised the Devils’ rookie goaltender, saying Schmidt “looked really good on the net and was very comfortable.”
Gallant added that he wanted the Rangers to do what they did in the first two games of the series. [and] screen him … we have to get more traffic and have more competition for their net. “
It worked in the first two games the Rangers beat Vanessek.
They did not have the same success as Schmidt.
For Devils defenseman Damon Severson, it was no surprise.
“He called,” Severson said of Schmid. “He’s a very nice guy. Calm down. People often say goalkeepers are a bit weird and have quirks, but he’s a good guy. He goes about his business. What about whether he scores or not?” No need to say anything or worry, he just keeps doing his thing and playing his game.”
Schmidt stood up to every challenge, but Shesterkin struggled through most of the first two periods, including giving up a short-handed goal, and was the subject of several derisive chants of “I-gor!” Became. From the crowd.
And even when he made a mistake, like when Schmidt gave up the puck, Kakko missed the net with a shot.
Schmidt was the first rookie goaltender to start a postseason game for the Devils since Martin Brodur in 1992.