With the Devils down 2-0 in the series to the New York Rangers, Lindy Ruff decided it was time to make a change. The struggling Vitek Vanecek had allowed five goals in back-to-back games and the series was looking bleak, so the head coach turned to the kid.
Akira Schmid was thrust into the net for his first career playoff game. Prior to that, he had appeared in just 24 regular season games and had posted a record of 9-5-2 with a 2.13 GAA and .922 save percentage.
Despite that, the 22-year-old looked calm, cool, and collected for the majority of the series. From Game 3, up until a brief hiccup in Game 6, Schmid was extremely poised and in control in net.
Even after allowing five goals and being pulled in the third period of that Game 6 loss at the Garden, he came back and shined in the win-or-go home matchup at the Prudential Center on Monday night.
Schmid recorded his second shutout of the postseason and made 30 saves en route to a 4-0 Game 7 win. He was just the second goalie in franchise history, and the fifth rookie in NHL history, to put up a zero in a Game 7.
By finishing the series 4-1-0 with a stellar .951 save percentage, Schmid helped the Devils secure their first postseason series win in eleven years.
“You envision things but you don’t envision what he did. This was a tough series it was two good teams going at it and goaltending ended up being a big factor,” Ruff said postgame. “He played a heck of a game and had a heck of a series.”
Devils captain Nico Hischier also made sure to give the youngster credit, simply calling his performance “huge.”
"He stepped up big time. He came in with confidence and was so calm and that gives confidence to the whole team," Hischier said. "He made those saves look easy, big props to him, that’s playoff hockey. He’s a big part of why we won this series."