Paul Simon couldn’t have been more wrong when he sang, “Hop off the bus, Gus. You don’t need to discuss much.” It’s quite the opposite really, and there’s plenty to discuss.
Especially after goalie Filip Gustavsson won his second game in as many starts Wednesday.
Fresh off his first career victory in his starting debut Monday, “Gus” turned in another steady performance – this time stopping 28 Calgary Flames shots in a Senators’ 3-1 victory.
The win earned the club points in five straight games (3-0-2). In addition; the team’s latest push improves their home record to a gaudy 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and 8-6-3 on the season. The Senators are also 10-8-2 overall since their porous opening to the 2021 campaign which saw them win only two of their first 15 games (2-12-1).
Senators’ rookie Josh Norris who scored his eighth goal of the season to tie last night’s game at one in the third period, said the team is playing with “kind of next-man up mentality.”
That’s certainly been the case when it comes to the team’s injured goaltenders.
Marcus Hogberg suffered what’s believed to be a groin injury on February 18 in Toronto, followed by Matt Murray just five games ago to an unknown issue.
Cue 24-year old Joey Daccord, who after losing three spot starts, entered the Senators’ crease March 14 versus the Maple Leafs in an emergency start. Daccord led his team to his first NHL career win and was spectacular once again, albeit in an overtime loss the following night to the Canucks.
Then with 14:07 remaining in the third period, trailing by a goal to the same Vancouver squad last Wednesday, Daccord shifted side-to-side in the crease and fell awkwardly spraining his ankle per Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch.
Gustavsson then serving as backup took over the net. Norris scored to tie shortly thereafter. The 22-year old went on to stop all eight shots faced prior to saving three of four in a losing effort in a shootout.
However, it was Gustavsson’s turn to shine Monday, earning a win in his first NHL start, and now has followed up with another victory.
Acquired in a February 2018 trade with the Penguins, Gustavsson has stopped 71 of 73 total shots in his three appearances to date, and possesses an astounding 0.86 goals-against average, .973 save percentage.
Norris, his Belleville Senator teammate from last season had this to say postgame Wednesday, “He looks so calm, and as a player, you really feed off that too. It gives your team confidence to know that he’s not panicking in those situations when they make pushes. They were playing good hockey. He stood tall and made some good saves. He didn’t panic at all. For a young goalie, that’s really impressive. As a young goalie that’s not easy to do. He’s done a hell of a job so far.”
Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith is also impressed with the netminder from Skelleftea, Sweden, “The kid has done a phenomenal job for us. He’s making the saves he’s got to make to give you a chance every night to win in this league.”
Smith appreciated Gustavsson’s poise in goal, “Just calm in the net, not sliding all over to make saves. Looks like he’s got a soft body. When it comes to pucks hitting him. he’s grabbing them.”
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Though he didn’t display nerves Monday, Gustavsson felt less nervous in his second full outing.
“Today I felt more comfortable. Today was more like, just playing a game. It was like a normal game today. I felt I’ve done the hard part the last game and the game before that.”
Trailing 1-0 until late in the game, the Senators stuck to their game plan and played well defensively, boxing out Flames’ forwards for the most part.
“They played great. Doesn’t feel like they got chances in the slot. They got some redirects and tips. That’s always going to happen. We kept them the outside. It makes for easy saves for me,” commented Gustavsson on his defensemen.
“Gus” handed some praised to d-man Nikita Zaitsev who blocked a team-high six shots and salted the game with an empty-net goal, his first of the season, “After he blocked those shots, he deserved that goal. I’m happy for him.”
The most noticeable aspect of Gustavsson’s game is that he’s conscientious of not allowing rebounds. He told Full Press Hockey, it’s a tad easier to adapt to the NHL style of play than that of the American League due to the structured nature and quality of players on the ice, “I feel how I play, my technique how I play is structured. The saves are a lot more easy. The D’s and the forwards help me make those easy saves by pushing to the outside. And I can just be there to soak the puck up.”
While Hogberg is set to return within days and Anton Forsberg who was picked up off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets is awaiting his turn, Gustavsson is content to let the Senators’ goaltender situation play itself out.
“I feel like I trust my game. I feel like I’m doing the right things during the games and practice. It’s going to come. I just have to work hard in practice and do the right things – we’ll see what happens.”