NHL Playoff Daily: American goalies Oettinger, Swayman, and Woll dominated Round 1

I understand the logistics of it all. 

But it still felt weird to have a Sunday double header with Game 1 of Round 2 leading into the final game of Round 1. 

The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes opened their series, the first jump into a new series, with the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights playing do-or-die hockey in the night cap. 

It makes it hard to completely polish off Round 1 or properly preview Round 2 when they overlap like that. 

Champagne problems for content creators sure, but annoyances nonetheless. 

Today, let’s close out Round 1, remember some of the names that have been eliminated, and some of the heroes that have already emerged. 

We will get deeper into Round 2 tomorrow, I promise. But for now let’s look at the opener. 

For starters, the 2018 American World Junior Team was stacked in the crease. 

Joseph Woll was the starter, Jake Oettinger was the backup and Jeremy Swayman was the third stringer that only appeared for a brief cameo. 

Today, they are the future – and present – face of American goaltending. 

Woll entered the series as a backup behind Ilya Samsonov, and he turned the series when he entered it and won both Games 5 and 6 to force a Game 7. 

Woll stopped 54 of 56 shots in the series, and his absence in Game 7 because of an injury sustained in Game 6 might have been the slim margin that kept Toronto from advancing. 

It was a great play by David Pastrnak in overtime, but I can’t help but feel like Samsonov was caught flat-footed on the play. Comparison is the theft of joy, but we were robbed of seeing Woll in that situation. 

On the opposite end Woll won both of his games against Swayman, who sizzled with a .950 save percentage in six games. Swayman became unbeatable on shots on the ice, and turned the Bruins goaltending debate into a firm answer of who is the present and future No. 1 in Boston. 

Swayman may get a rest in the next round at some point, the Bruins do have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner waiting and with a packed schedule, it would make sense. But if Boston is going to go deep this year, it’ll be because they turned to Swayman earlier than they did in 2023 when he wasn’t given enough time to rescue them. 

The other member of that 2018 WJC American trio, Oettinger, has told me before his goal is to be considered the best goalie in the world. It's a confident, swagger-filled statement and doesn’t come off nearly as cocky as you think. 

And at the start of the series vs. Vegas, Oettinger looked far from even being in that conversation. Back in Game 1 he was outplayed by Logan Thompson and Dallas only trailed in the series because Oettinger couldn’t make a couple timely saves against the Vegas storm. 

But from that opening fumble, Oettinger was dominant and clutch. 

In Games 2 through 6, the Stars goalie stopped 172 of 182 shots he faced, a .945 save percentage. He only allowed one goal after the second period in the entire series.

I waxed poetically last week about Wyatt Johnston, and he was probably the Stars MVP in Round 1, but Oettinger was the foundation that allowed Dallas to survive and advance against one of the toughest challenges a No. 1 seed has ever faced. 

Because it’ll drive clicks and SEO, and it’s en vogue, it makes me think about what Team USA could look like in goal next year at the Four Nations Faceoff. 

For a long, long time it’s been widely accepted that it would be Connor Hellebuyck and Thatcher Demko representing the Americans, potentially with Oettinger or Swayman joining them. 

That’ll probably still be the case, but what if the baton was passed this round? What if that 2018 World Junior goalie trio are now the 2025 Four Nations trio and the three-headed goalie monster that’ll head to the Olympics for 2026?

Just some food for thought. 

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This article is about:
NHL Boston Bruins Dallas Stars Toronto Maple Leafs Vegas Golden Knights Thatcher Demko Connor Hellebuyck Wyatt Johnston Jake Oettinger David Pastrnak Ilya Samsonov Jeremy Swayman Logan Thompson Joseph Woll
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