The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been nothing short of amazing to this point in the post-season, but there are a couple of players that are making contributions to their team despite tremendous obstacles and shortcomings. These two players are showing us something that not even Hollywood could have written up and Steven Spielberg may want to start taking notes.
Martin St. Louis:
Last Thursday, the day before the Rangers’ Game 5 scuffle with the Penguins, New York Ranger Martin St. Louis was made aware of the most devastating news of his life; the sudden passing away of his mother, France.
Just as any son would do in that situation, St. Louis rushed to the site of his mother’s death in Montreal later that day to mourn with his family. He arrived in time to see her before taking her away. Nobody, not even his teammates, expected the right-winger to play in the rest of the playoffs, much less return to Pittsburgh the next day to play in the win-or-go-home Game 5.
That is exactly what he did.
With his team down 3-1 to the Penguins, St. Louis refused to let the passing of his mother keep him from playing in one of the biggest games of his life. In fact, he used to inspire him and his teammates.
“I know deep down my mom would have wanted me to play in that game,” said St. Louis to reporters after the 5-1 victory in Game 5. “She’d be so proud of me coming here and helping as much as I can and the boys have been so supportive…it’s been unbelievable.”
His presence in the locker room as well as the ice gave the Rangers to extra burst in emotion that they needed to stay alive.
“She was a great lady, the best human being I’ve ever known in my life. I owed it to her to do it; I know she would want that,” said St. Louis.
If Thursday and Friday was not hard enough for St. Louis, the Rangers’ Game 6 on Mother’s Day was sure to bring a relapse of emotions.
However, as if written by a Hollywood film writer, it was none other than St. Louis who provided the first goal of the game en route to a 3-1 Ranger victory to force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Playing in front of a noisier-than-usual Madison Square Garden crowd, St. Louis nearly sent the crowd into frenzy with his early first period goal in front of the net. Of course, St Louis promptly picked up the puck to keep in memory of his mother. It would be rather hard to find a more bittersweet Mother’s Day present.
The strength that has been exhibited by St. Louis and the Rangers was been simply unbelievable and can be looked at by athletes everywhere as inspiration. A beautiful thing is occurring in the Stanley Cup playoffs and if the Rangers are to steal Game 7 on the road on Tuesday, it would go down in sports history was one of the most emotional and improbable comebacks ever.
On the opposite coast of the United States, something just as amazing is unfolding. The Anaheim Ducks have started three different goalies in their second round playoffs series against the Los Angeles Kings, becoming first team to do so in 25 years. But what is truly unbelievable is what third goalie has been doing in the past two games.
After the Ducks’ traditional starter Jonas Hiller gave up five goals in the first two games of the series, he was promptly benched in favor of rookie Frederik Andersen. Andersen is 2-0 all-time in the Staples Center while Hiller is 0-7, which tempted Boudreau to make the move.
Andersen gave up one goal in his 50 minutes on the ice, but suffered a lower body injury that has the goalie listed as day-to-day. Hiller came in after the injury and gave up one goal on the eight shots that the faced, but the Ducks were still able to hang onto the win and cut the series deficit to 2-1 in favor of the Kings.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau had a tough decision to make prior to the pivotal Game 4. With Andersen out, Boudreau was essentially left with just Hiller, or so many thought. In yet another of Boudreau’s masterful goalie moves (which he made many of during his time in D.C. i.e. Semyon Varlamov); Anaheim flew in 20-year-old goalie John Gibson from Newfoundland to get the start in Game 4.
Just a few days before his fourth ever NHL game, Gibson was 3,000 miles away playing in the American Hockey League and on Saturday, Gibson was introducing himself to his new teammates before the team’s most important game of the season.
Gibson was not fazed by the pressure, however. Even though the goalie is young, Gibson has had plenty of experience playing on the big stage. He has been a part of numerous junior hockey championships and has shown flashes of greatness while playing overseas.
A Game 4 Stanley Cup playoff game on the road against the L.A. Kings in a vital Game 4 may not be the most ideal playoff debut for a young player, but Gibson made due pretty well. Gibson blanked the Kings on the Ducks’ way to a 2-0 victory and a newly tied series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Gibson became the youngest goalie to record a shutout in his playoff debut and the youngest goalie to win a playoff game since Montreal’s Carey Price in 2008.
Gibson also became the first goalie to ever record a shutout in his NHL playoff debut.
Gibson’s inspired play rubbed off on his teammates and carried momentum into Game 5 back in Anaheim, where the home crowd gave quite a warm welcome to their new goalie. Gibson tallied 39 saves on 42 shots in the game including holding off a flurry of late-game chances by the Kings to preserve the 4-3 victory for the Ducks.
To put in perspective how young Gibson is compared to his teammates, he had not even been born at the time fellow Duck Teemu Selanne entered the NHL. But has that stopped Gibson from making a name for himself in the big leagues? Of course not. If Anaheim continues on this streak and Gibson does not fold under the pressure, Hollywood could have its next big idea for a Blockbuster hit.