There’s nothing quite like playoff hockey. Better yet, there’s nothing quite like overtime playoff hockey. Three of the four games between the Capitals and Maple Leafs have gone to overtime – and all four games have been decided by one goal – as the series is tied, 2-2.
Make no mistake: When a game goes to overtime, a player’s mindset changes.
“If you’re all on the same page and you’re at that point, the biggest thing is you have to do whatever it takes to get yourself in the way of a puck,” NHL Network analyst Darren Pang said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “That’s the one thing that I look at. That one shot that comes from the point, if you don’t reach out and get your skate on it, your foot on it, your ankle on it, your head on it, your stick on it, that could be the difference between the game being over. You can’t take anything for granted when it comes to overtime.”
Goaltending, of course, is critical in overtime – and in playoff hockey in general. Pang, a former goalie, has been thoroughly impressed by Blues goalie Jake Allen, who notched a career-high 52 saves in St. Louis’ Game 1 win over the Wild last Wednesday. In fact, Allen stopped 114 of 117 through the first three games of the series – all Blues wins – before giving up two goals in a 2-0 loss on Wednesday.
He’s been phenomenal.
“I’ve gotten to know Jake quite well from covering the Blues on Fox Sports Midwest, and I think he’s a gifted athlete, No. 1,” Pang said, explaining the 26-year-old’s success. “And you can see that (with) the way he skates, the way he catches pucks. A lot of goaltenders nowadays are brought up being blockers of the puck; they’re not stoppers, they’re not catchers. They get into a percentage and they block pucks. I don’t personally like that style of goaltending, maybe because I was so small I had to be more quick and more (reactive). I like the way Jake plays.
“The one thing, though, you have to keep in mind is when Mike Yeo did take over, this team became a suffocating defensive club,” Pang continued. “They really collapsed low as a five-man unit in their own zone. They allowed outside shots from the perimeter, and I think with every game that went on, he gained more and more confidence – and I give him a lot of credit because he went through a bad spell of about three weeks, a time in which he had his first baby. That’s a lot on your plate, and he ended up having a little bit of a struggle, but I love the fact that he’s bounced back, and mentally he’s a very strong kid with a great work ethic and a very competitive spirit. So I think now this has truly become a series between Devan Dubnyk and Jake Allen, and it’s going to be a heck of a series.”
St. Louis leads the series 3-1, with Game 5 slated for Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.