Avalanche goalie Michael Hutchinson made his first career NHL playoff start Monday in an elimination Game 5 against the Dallas Stars. He got the news less than 24 hours before puck drop.
Good luck, Hutch.
“There’s no pressure,” Hutchinson said. “Just an opportunity.”
The latest turn on Colorado’s goaltender carousel, once again, kept the Avs afloat. With Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz both listed “unfit to play,” Hutchinson made 31 saves in a 6-3 victory to force Game 6 on Wednesday in the Edmonton bubble.
“We had Hutch in the net and we trusted him,” Avalanche forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “I don’t think we put too much thought on it.”
That’s because Colorado’s plug-and-play approach in net has worked all year long. The Avs had five goalies earn at least one win during the regular season — including Hutchinson. In March, he stopped 17-of-18 shots on goal in a 2-1 road victory at the Red Wings.
It is currently unknown if Francouz or Hutchinson will start Wednesday for the Avalanche. Grubauer is out indefinitely. Coach Jared Bednar is scheduled to meet virtually with the media on Tuesday afternoon.
“One great thing about this team is guys step up, they’ve done it all season,” Hutchinson said. “Everyone has been able to rise to the occasion.”
Colorado acquired Hutchinson, 30, at the trade deadline from the Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Calle Rosen. In the bubble, to back up Hutchinson, the Avalanche will turn to Hunter Miska. The 25-year-old Minnesota native was signed as a free agent in July after he last appeared in one game for the Arizona Coyotes in 2018.
Avs coach Jared Bednar said: “I talked with Hutch and with Miska (Sunday) night and made sure they were both ready to go.”
Hutchinson drew confidence from several team practices in Edmonton where he adjusted to NHL playoff game speed. Then Hutchinson received the ultimate Game 5 cushion: A 5-0 first-period lead and only four Dallas shots on goal.
“As a goalie, you’ve got to stay calm, and your game doesn’t change whether you’re up in a game by a lot, or it’s a close game,” Hutchinson said. “You just have to stay level, present and in the moment. Be ready for anything.”
Added Bednar: “He didn’t get a lot of work early, but he certainly did as the game went on. Dallas was making a push.”
Colorado’s depth has been tested with constant injuries since the start of this season. The emergence of unlikely heroes like Hutchinson, a seventh-year NHL journeyman, is keeping the Avs’ cup dreams alive facing another must-win game.
“It’s what you worked for when you were a kid and what you dream about playing in the backyard,” Hutchison said.