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NHL

Can Someone Please Help Out The Goalies?

Petr Mrazek after allowing a goal
ESPN+

Thursday was a rough night to be a goaltender in the NHL. OK, every night is a rough night to be a goalie, but last night, all over the continent, it felt like the men in the masks were getting shelled with special cruelty by their longtime nemeses, the men without the masks. Columbus’s Joonas Korpisalo let in six goals on 33 shots against the Islanders, the Flyers’ Carter Hart allowed five on 36 in a loss to the monster that is the Florida Panthers, and for the Rangers, Igor Shesterkin—poor Igor!—had the worst night of his otherwise astoundingly good season, getting pulled for the first time in a loss to the Blues.

But that’s not even the worst of it. A pair of goalies—one in Detroit and one in Toronto—allowed memorably brutal goals in games that their teams eventually lost in overtime/shootout land. It was enough to make a concerned, goalie-friendly fan ask, “What the heck is going on?”

First, with Petr Mrazek in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Arizona Coyotes were bailed out when they seemingly blew a fantastic scoring opportunity. It started when Phil Kessel took the puck into the offensive zone on the rush, and Mrazek—who had already looked confused and out of position on the game’s first goal—came well out of his crease to try and face him down. Kessel made an accurate pass across the ice to Jakob Chychrun, who had a completely wide-open net to score in if he could just nail the one-timer. But Chychrun whiffed and sent it towards goal at a snail’s pace. Mrazek, however, called Chychrun on his mistake and then raised him, stumbling on his attempt to get across and stop the puck. The Coyotes went up 2-0 with the goal, Mrazek got pulled halfway through the game, and the Coyotes won 5-4 in overtime.

This was, incredibly, not the worst goaltending of the night.

There was plenty of excitement in the Red Wings-Wild game, including the tease of a goalie fight, a pair of goals from the just-returned Jakub Vrana, and 10 goals scored between the two teams. One of them shouldn’t have been a goal at all. Alex Nedeljkovic, manning the pipes for the Wings, made a sickening error on a puck that knuckleballed toward him with nobody around. Ned swatted at it awkwardly with his stick and hit it at the worst angle possible, sending it through his own legs and across the red line. The Wild got the two points in this one, besting Detroit in a shootout.

“When a goalie makes a mistake it’s very visible,” sympathetic Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the game. “But we made a lot of mistakes tonight and the goalie is the one who has to bail us out.”

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, on the other hand, was a little less forgiving.

“When you give up the first two like that, you can’t give up three and four. You’ve got to find a way to make the saves for us in that case,” he said. “It’s tough. I don’t know what else to say. It’s tough.”

Give a goalie a hug if you see one today.