Wow. Did the Aeros come through for me and correct my crummy day yesterday or what? Thanks, boys. I'm feeling inspired again. :)
Andrew summed the game up better than I could (as usual) because I really got fixated on Anton Khudobin last night. His performance had all the elements that a goalie junkie like me loves in a game, and I wanted to give him his props here.
Sometimes goals look bad to the untrained eye when really they aren't that bad, but that first goal was bad. He tried to make the save on a high shot by letting the puck hit him while he was standing up, but he didn't quite get ahold of it. It fell to the ice and by the time he found it, he couldn't get down and over before Toronto took a whack at it and put it in the net. Easy goal.
We all knew it was bad and he CLEARLY knew it by the way he reacted afterward. His body language was full of frustration.
I tweeted after that goal that it would be interesting to see how that goal affects the rest of his game. He used to be known as a goalie for whom a bad goal would open the floodgates. But tonight he showed the mental strength he's gained over the last few years as he's matured.
Something seemed a little different about Anton tonight though. Maybe it was that bad goal and he was playing with more determination? I wish I'd interviewed him after the game but I needed time to think about what I saw.
Anyway, he was playing with lots of emotion for whatever reason. The second goal wasn't even his fault. It was a hard shot that hit a shin pad on an Aero in front of him and deflected just a tad bit more than he could adjust for. He almost had it, but it sneaked under his left pad, I believe. And he visibly reacted to that goal, too, though not as strongly.
Then near the end of the game, he went all Hextall-slash on the back of a Toronto player's knees after a stoppage. I guess the guy ran him a little bit, but man, he whacked him hard. Either the officials didn't see it or they were cool with the goalie defending himself.
He faced 13 shots in the third and 7 in OT, both of which seem low to me. But perhaps the quality of the chances was so high, it just seemed like more shots. I'd give anything for clip of two unreal save on Nazem Kadri (who, if you're unfamiliar, was a Maple Leaf's #1 draft pick and has some unbelievably sick hands).
Anton's strength and flexibility just shone on the first save during OT as he stayed with Kadri all the way across the goal mouth, pretty much in the splits. I'm not sure how he got across, actually, unless his initial push had enough momentum to carry him in the full splits all the way beyond the other post. Kadri tried to lift the puck over Anton's outstretched leg pad, but Anton batted it down with his glove and covered it up as he was sliding across.
The other fantastic save, again on Kadri, who was first up in the shootout, was a similar move, but Anton caught the puck this time and somehow ended up going from full splits to being up on his skates. Like, physically, I can't fathom how he did that.
The guy is just spring-loaded. I've never seen anything like it. Not only was the strength and flexibility there, but reading the play, knowing exactly what Kadri wanted to do, pushing hard enough across to stay with him while tracking that puck into his glove, and then popping up to his skates from a full split? What the....
The more I think about it... I'm fanning myself and blushing again. Needless to say, it made up for that lousy first goal, no question.
Just a huge amount of compete from him last night. A big-hearted victory that he can be very proud of in spite of the stinker. Throw that out. The real test of a goaltender's mettle isn't whether he never lets in the odd bad goal. It's how he bounces back from a bad goal, a bad game, frustration.
And I'd say from last night's performance, he proved his mettle. Clutch Anton is back and the Aeros are lucky for that.
P.S. Just to turn this around a little bit, how good were the Aeros shooters last night, too? Shootouts happen at both ends, and I can't recall seeing a more successful shootout from an Aeros team in a long time. That had to give Anton a lot of confidence as well, to see that his back wasn't up against the wall. Good on Palmer, Sal, and Gillies for making Juicy Rynnas look silly.
BTW, here's a couple of articles on Cody Almond, who made his season debut in a win for the Wild last night. One from the Calgary Sun and the Calgary Herald.