Who would have guessed that the first game of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs would be record-setting? This seems to be the year of the unprecedented so why not, right? The Tampa Bay Lightning needed three regulation periods, four overtime periods, and half of a fifth in order to finally take Game 1 from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It’s not often a goalie puts up a .968 save percentage and stops 61 shots, then ends up barely getting a mention in the game story, but that’s where Andrei Vasilevskiy found himself after Joonas Korpisalo broke the NHL record previously held by Kelly Hrudey for most saves in a playoff game.
Korpisalo stopped a heroic 85 of the 87 shots he faced before the constant barrage of Lightning attacks finally found a hole on a broken play. The winning goal was caused by a shot that hit Vladislav Gavrikov in the face, which allowed Brayden Point to pick up the loose puck and beat Korpisalo on the 88th and final shot of the game.
Korpisalo’s performance was brilliant, with MoneyPuck.com estimating 8.32 expected goals for the Lightning in the nearly eight periods of play.
To give some idea of how Korpisalo was able to save five goals more than expected in a single game, let’s look at the five most dangerous shots he faced in the ‘August Epic’ along with their expected goal value according to Sportlogiq.
Number 5: Yanni Gourde, Double Overtime: 0.214 expected goals
Cedric Paquette takes the puck off the boards with a deft move by pulling the puck through his legs before spinning and shooting through traffic, only to have his shot blocked by David Savard. Steaming out from the corner is Yanni Gourde, who catches a stationary Savard and recovers the rebound, crossing the middle of the ice.
Gourde reaches as far as he can and tries to tuck the puck around Korpisalo, but ends up hitting the dead centre of his right pad. Tracking a rebound off of a defender is much tougher than a goalie’s own rebound where they can sort of feel where it’s going to go and exert some control, but Korpisalo is unfazed.
Korpisalo gets a clear view of both where the puck has gone, and notices Gourde streaking in from the boards, so he manages to stay mostly square to the puck and give Gourde very little to shoot at. Despite having to lunge to his right, Korpisalo doesn’t look out of control or panicked. He’s exactly where he wants to be.
Number 4: Yanni Gourde, Triple Overtime: 0.226 expected goals
Technically this is two excellent chances for Gourde, but it’s the second one that has the highest expected goal value. The first shot from Gourde, a great deflection, was worth 0.18 expected goals.
An East-West pass across the width of the ice up high opens up some space in the middle, and Kevin Shattenkirk takes advantage by wiring a low shot right for Gourde’s stick looking for a deflection. Korpisalo notices just in time and closes the pads to deny the initial shot, but gives up a juicy rebound.
Gourde maintains body position on the much bigger Boone Jenner, then literally pounces on the loose puck and tries to chip it over Korpisalo and in. For his part, Korpisalo was in good position to stop the shot by tracking the direction of the rebound, but you can see he reacts to the shot after making the save, so there’s some good fortune involved in this one that happened to hit him.
Number 3: Mitchell Stephens, Triple Overtime: 0.246 expected goals
Paquette picks up the puck along the wall and draws Riley Nash in towards him, before sending a pass behind the net to Patrick Maroon. Zach Werenski half commits to blocking the pass, but doesn’t get anything on it. Nathan Gerbe, who was covering for Nash in the middle of the ice, thinks Maroon will send a pass up the boards and drifts out to the faceoff circle. Seth Jones has already chased Maroon in the corner, trusting Werenski to get back to the net front.
Nash is too far out of position from chasing Paquette, so the middle of the ice is wide open, and Maroon calmly sends a pass around Jones’ stick and right to Mitchell Stephens, who wires one on net only to be robbed by the chest of Korpisalo with no rebound.
If you look closely, you can see Korpisalo notice Stephens is all alone as soon as Jones starts to chase Maroon, with a little glance to centre ice. He doesn’t commit very hard to Maroon, and it just takes a little push off the post with his left skate to slide to the middle and stop Stephens’ excellent chance, then hold it for a whistle with his glove against his jersey.
Number 2: Mitchell Stephens, Third Period: 0.283 expected goals
Stephens had some great looks in Game 1, but none were better than this. As has been the case in three of these high quality plays so far, Paquette initiates things; this time with a little pass off the boards and around Seth Jones to Patrick Maroon. With Jones pinched high and the Blue Jackets attempting an extremely ill-timed line change, Maroon has a two-on-one chance with Stephens. Werenski is the last man back and his gap is too large to stop Maroon’s pass to Stephens.
Jenner is attempting to apply back pressure, and he gets just enough into the lane that Maroon has to put the pass in front of Stephens, meaning he has to accept it on his backhand before corralling the puck and firing a quick shot on net.
Korpisalo is set for the backhand, adjusts slightly when Stephens goes to the forehand, and makes the stop. He can’t cover the rebound though, and Stephens gets two more whacks at it, hitting the side of the net once, and is then stopped by Korpisalo again, who had rolled over on to his back to recover positioning while down and out.
Number 1: Brayden Point, Second Period: 0.385 expected goals
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but as the saying goes: you have to be good to be lucky.
Mikhail Sergachev drives low after gaining the zone and spins to avoid Zach Werenski’s check, sending a pass up to Victor Hedman at the point. Hedman winds up for a slap shot and ends up drawing in both Liam Foudy and Nick Foligno, which is even more impactful because this play is at 4-on-4. Meanwhile, Nikita Kucherov drives the net between the two Columbus forwards, which draws Seth Jones to him.
By the time Hedman is halfway through his downswing, every Blue Jacket on the ice is on the right side of the attacking zone, and Brayden Point is all alone on the left. Hedman shifts his body and sends a slap pass to Point. If you watch closely, you’ll notice Korpisalo checks where Point is when Sergachev passes to Hedman, then makes the read that Hedman chose to pass, and slides over to make a glove stop along the ice.
If Point doesn’t fan on this shot, I’m not sure if Korpisalo would have actually got over in time to make the stop, but you have to give him credit for making the read and adjusting to a weird fanned shot to end any possible danger that could result from it.