This year’s rendition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been anything but normal. From the 24-team play-in, to the two Canadian hub-city locales, to the expedited schedule, to the relaxed dress code, to the lack of morning skates, to the daily COVID-19 tests, to the two-day Black Lives Matter boycott, to the empty arenas… it’s been a wildly astronomical undertaking.
On Monday evening, things got even stranger from the hub city bubble of Edmonton, AB. After seeing starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer go down with a suspected groin/leg injury in the first game of their second round matchup with the Dallas Stars, the Colorado Avalanche turned to backup Pavel Francouz just three minutes into the second period. Not only did the Avs lose that game, but also their starting goaltender, which has been a cause of significant concern going forward.
Francouz went on to lose Game 1, Game 2 and Game 4, while picking up a victory in Game 3 for Colorado. However, on Monday evening, things changed in net for both teams. Dallas, which had been relying on backup Anton Khudobin for the majority of the postseason (following regular starter Ben Bishop’s diagnosis of being ‘unfit to play’) saw Bishop not only return to the lineup, but start the game in net, while Colorado had Michael Hutchinson lead the team onto the ice for the all-important Game 5.
Yes, that Michael Hutchinson.
The former Winnipeg Jet, Michael Hutchinson.
The 30-year-old who had a grand total of nine postseason minutes played prior to Monday night, Michael Hutchinson.
Following the Grubauer injury, the Avalanche also announced the recall of 25-year-old, Stacy, MN. product Hunter Miska, who arrived in the bubble, quarantined for seven days and served as Hutchinson’s backup Monday night, with both Grubauer and Francouz listed as ‘unfit to play’.
Colorado, which was playing for its playoff lives rallied for five first period goals – four of which beat Bishop before his removal – and hung on for a 6-3 victory. On the same night that Victor Hedman scored in double overtime to help the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time in the past six years, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Andre Burakovsky helped keep the Avalanche alive with multi-point nights infront of the third-string, right-handed catching Hutchinson.
In giving up just three goals on 34 shots (two of which came on Miro Heiskanen and Jamie Benn power play strikes), Hutchinson fared well in his first start since March 2nd. His .912 save percentage helped the Avalanche to the much-needed victory, while turning aside 10 shots while shorthanded and 18 total shots in the final frame.
Hutchinson, 30, spent five seasons within the Winnipeg Jets organization. Beginning his career in the AHL with Providence in 2010, the Barrie, ON. product joined the former St. John’s IceCaps in 2013-14, before landing the Jets’ backup goaltender position the following season. He held that role until the 2018-19 season, where he has since found himself suiting up for the Florida Panthers, Springfield Thunderbirds, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies and most recently the Avalanche.
Colorado just so happened to be one of the 11/24 teams that entered the bubble with just three goaltenders. Should something happen to Miska, who served as Hutchinson’s backup Monday following his immediate recall after the Grubauer injury, the team could very well be out of luck as to appropriate measures in terms of legal backstopping aid. The other 13 teams originally invited to the bubble chose to carry four netminders on their 31-man rosters.
Game 6 of the second round best-of-five matchup is set for 7:00 PM central on Wednesday and will be available live on Sportsnet and CBC. Each of the Philadelphia/New York and the Vegas/Vancouver games will also be available live Tuesday evening.