The New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers have battled through six hard-fought games in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and are heading to a game seven on Monday night in Newark, N.J. Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, has decided to start 22-year-old goaltender Akira Schmid in the deciding seventh game.
Ruff started the backbone of the Devils, Vitek Vaneck, in Games 1 and 2, and rightfully so. Vanecek finished the regular season with a 33-11-4 record and a .911 save percentage. The best save percentage to his name in his three NHL seasons. New Jersey found themselves in a 2-0 hole after, though, as Vanecek gave up nine total goals in those two games (plus an empty netter). After Game 2, Ruff switched things up and gave Schmid the nod in Game 3.
Schmid’s first playoff start presented itself on the road. Yet, he recorded 35 saves and only let one puck past him in front of a Madison Square Garden crowd that was mostly clad in blue. Schmid allowed just one goal and the Devils took the game in overtime. How’s that for a playoff debut?
In Game 4, we saw Schmid stop 22 shots and help the Devils win 3-1 to tie the series. Game 5 was dominant from Schmid as he recorded his second shutout this season, saving 23 shots and fueling the young Devils team as they scored three goals on Igor Shesterkin and won the game 4-0 (thanks to an empty net goal).
With the Devils holding its first series lead since 2012, the series was heading back to Madison Square Garden. The Devils had a golden opportunity to advance to Round 2 as the kids were 2-0 in New York City this series. Unfortunately, as Game 6 progressed, the Devils began to fall apart offensively and defensively, resulting in a shooting gallery on Schmid. Stopping 24 out of 29 shots and posting a .828 save percentage, Schmid statistically had his worst game of the series.
Devils insider Amanda Stein reported on Monday morning, about nine hours before puck drop that “Akira Schmid is in the starters net (during morning skate). He gets the nod in game 7.”
Ruff was asked on Sunday who he will be throwing between the pipes in the Devils’ most important game of the season and he refused to comment on who will be starting.
Stein reported once more stating, “Lindy Ruff says his decision is made on who will start Game 7, but he’s keeping it to himself and within the team.”
This was reported on Sunday by Stein, and it is now revealed during Monday’s morning skate that Schmid will be standing tall in front of Monday night’s task.
Every game from Game 1 to Game 6 is irrelevant now. Game 7 is a fresh chance for both teams to hang loose and play their style of hockey. The Devils have won 55 games this season, including the playoffs. Why not one win more? The two greatest words in sports have meaning to the New Jersey Devils for the first time in a very long time. Buckle up Devils fans, Game 7 is coming soon.