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Juuse Saros Showed Up In a Big Way When Predators Needed Him Most



Photo of Juuse Saros courtesy of the Nashville Predators

It may seem hyperbolic to assert the sole reason the Nashville Predators won Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series in Vancouver on Tuesday was because of goaltender Juuse Saros, who made just 17 saves on 18 shots, but a look beyond the box score supports such a statement.

Despite the 4-1 result, the Canucks dominated Game 2 in nearly every facet — scoring chances for (39 to 20), high-danger chances for (16-10), shots (18 to 16), hits (47-30) and faceoffs won (29 to 21). And yet, Vancouver had a lone Nikita Zadorov goal to show for its efforts.

Saros’ expected goals against in Tuesday’s matchup was 3.34, but he allowed just one. He finished with 2.16 goals saved above expected, and he saved all six high-danger shots against, all six rebound shots against and all 11 shots from the slot, per Natural Stat Trick.

“He did his thing,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “It’s just incredible the way he prepares and stays focused in there and never quits on a play and just seems to track that puck so well. Obviously, you never want to rely on your goalie that much, but at the end of the day, he’s one of your best players and he wants to win more than anyone.”

“I was just trying to force them to make hard plays,” Saros added. “There’s a lot of great players there and [they make] great plays, so really trying to do the best we can. Obviously, you can’t always [stop] everything.”

[READ: Adversity Prepped Predators For Second Go-Around With Canucks]

For nearly every one of Vancouver’s best scoring chances, there’s a corresponding video of Saros standing on his head to keep the high-octane Canucks offense off the board.

Like his first-period pad save on Pius Suter, who had an open net to shoot at as he fell to the ice.

Or the left pad save he made on a Brock Boeser shot off the face off in the third period.

Or the multiple saves he made in the third period with Dakota Joshua in his face right in the crease.

“I was just kind of trying to challenge him and take away his time and space,” Saros said. “That rebound kind of came back to him and I got help from our guys.”

Saros even limited Vancouver’s big guns — Boeser, J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Elias Lindholm — to just eight shots on goal, and the quintet combined for a -9 rating.

The 29-year-old Finn also endured a third period dominated by the Canucks, in which they held the Predators without a shot on goal for 18 minutes and seven seconds until Kiefer Sherwood buried an empty-netter that iced the win, and he kept the Canucks at bay despite as the Predators labored through long shifts and struggled to clear the puck out of their defensive zone for much of the game.

Saros traditionally hasn’t received much goal support in the postseason. The Predators averaged just 2.63 goals per game in his 11 playoff starts (he’s just 3-8 in those games) heading into Game 2.

So when he turns in a .944 save percentage-performance like he did on Tuesday, it really reinforces the notion that when he heats up, Saros is the kind of goaltender that can steal a playoff series.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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