, 2023-04-18 09:38:35,
DALLAS — A few days before his first Stanley Cup playoffs start, I asked Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson what the biggest game he ever played in was.
“Everything is in perspective,” he said.
The first game he played that was televised — when Gustavsson started for a Swedish pro team in a tournament at age 15 — was pretty cool. They won that game, too.
But Gustavsson, 24, thought back to the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo. He had backstopped the Swedes in an upset of the defending champion United States in the semifinal and was facing the Canadians in the gold medal game at the KeyBank Center. Gustavsson stopped 25 of 27 shots in a 3-1 loss, but never forgot it.
“It was sold out — all red shirts with 15 yellow ones,” Gustavsson said. “It was so cool. I just appreciated the moment.”
So when it came to starting Game 1 of the Wild’s first-round series with the Stars in Dallas, Gustavsson took the same approach.
“It’s going to be fun,” Gustavsson said. “That’s why you play. You don’t just come over here to play and go home first. It’s fun to play when it’s summertime for once.”
I thought of this conversation a few times during the Wild’s heart-stopping, 3-2 double-overtime victory over the Stars Monday night. Gustavsson, in his typical calm, cool and collected fashion, racked up 51 saves, which is a franchise record for the playoffs. Only four other goalies have had more saves in their NHL playoffs debut since the league first started tracking saves in 1956, according to NHL Stats. The others? Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo (72 saves in 2007), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (63 in 2003), Vezina Trophy winner Jose Theodore in 1997 and Jiri Crha with 55 in 1980.
“All you need is someone to believe in you.”
Filip Gustavsson thought this could have been his last year playing in North America. But the riddle-making, disc golf playing, pranking Swede has been a game-changer for #mnwild. Behind the rise of “Gus Bus.” https://t.co/qkx5HJYW44 pic.twitter.com/c4i9wA3yQV
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithNHL) April 13, 2023
“Unbelievable,” Marcus Foligno said.
“Fantastic,” coach Dean Evason said.
“Hell of an effort,” rookie defenseman Brock Faber said. “The game could have ended so many times.”
Gustavsson’s record-setting performance — in a duel with the Stars’ Jake Oettinger — validated the Wild staff’s decision to start him in Game 1. There was a debate about it, with future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury and…
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