Akira Schmid’s calmness helps Devils in must-win Game 3 victory

New Jersey Devils goaltender Akira Schmid in the second period of Game 3 of the team’s NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Saturday, April 22, 2023, in New York.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

NEW YORK — Dougie Hamilton may have scored the game-winner for the Devils to cut their series deficit to 2-1 against the Rangers, but Akira Schmid was the New Jersey player that came up the biggest all night on Saturday. 

Schmid made save after save in the Game 3 win for the Devils, while looking like a poised pro who had been in the playoffs a number of times in his career. In reality, the  22-year-old netminder was making the first postseason start of his career. 

The New Jersey goaltender admitted that he was “very” nervous about the game when asked directly afterward. You would never know by the way Schmid handled the 35-save effort in a must-win game for the Devils. 

“It’s always tough coming into a situation like this,” Schmid said. “But you just try to treat it like any other game. And I guess, you know, that’s kind of how I am. So that’s just how I felt I’m built and the guys did a great job helping me out blocking shots, which makes my life easier.”

Schmid turned away shot after shot on Saturday night, allowing just one goal which came on a laser of a shot from Chris Kreider in the second period. Otherwise, the young goalie did everything that he could to keep the Rangers from sneaking one by him. 

It was Friday night at a team dinner that Schmid found out he would be starting in net for Game 3. The Devils had started Vitek Vanecek through the first two games of the series. 

Schmid was just the third rookie in franchise history to start a playoff game joining the likes of Sean Burke and Martin Brodeur. 

“He showed a lot of poise for a young man to come into this building and play,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “He has that demeanor. He’s had it all year long. There’s not a lot that bothers him. Go back to the Ottawa game where I put him in late and he made a couple of incredible saves where you would think a tough position to be in and he answered the call. Again, he’s is a pretty poised kid.” 

That calmness seemed to trickle down to the rest of the roster as the game wore on. Hamilton, who scored the game-winner 11:36 into overtime, said that Schmid had played well all season long leading to plenty of confidence in the rookie goalie. 

Nico Hischier was emphatic about how Schimd’s calmness on Saturday night was infectious among the Devils’ lineup.

“100 percent. The goalie is staying calm it gives that confidence to the whole group,” Hischier said. “He made the saves when we needed and, yeah, he played unbelievable.”  

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