FORT WAYNE – So go on, people. Booooo-shhh the man one more time.
Send down your inside-out love as he lifts another Cup and does his little star turn with it, while the place shakes with what sounds like scorn. The uninformed will hear it as booing, and wonder what atrocity Nick Boucher could possibly have committed. The informed, however
Well, they know what Orange Nation is saying. Know what it’s seeing, too.
Best playoff goalie in Komets history. Start there.
There’s a reason he’s won this many championships, defenseman Jamie Lovell said. He’s a big-game goalie.
I don’t think there’s any better money goalie in the minor leagues that I’ve seen, coach Al Sims agreed.
There are a lot of reasons the Komets won the Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup this season, 19 months after tripping over their own feet coming out of the gate in the CHL. The ability to adapt, the savvy to know how to retool, the understanding that chemistry and leadership are at least as important as sheer talent: All of that led straight to Monday night.
But it starts between the pipes. And there, the Komets had the surest thing in the house.
They had a guy who came out of Leduc, Alberta, 21 miles south of Edmonton, to become an Ivy League icon at Dartmouth, and then landed in Fort Wayne. Thirty-four playoff victories and four titles in five years followed, and if you can’t lay all of that at Nick Boucher’s feet, you can certainly lay a lot of it.
He’s probably as competitive as a goalie as I’ve ever run into, probably as competitive as the great Robbie Irons, who was a fierce competitor in his day, said general manager David Franke, who knew he was getting quality with Boucher but never figured on this.
The one thing about Nick is, you watch in his career, and if he has a bad game, he’ll come back the next night with a great game.
That happened this year, of course, when he gave up maybe the softest goal of his career early in Game 2 against Missouri. Out he came, in came backup Gerry Festa. And there went Missouri.
Because here came Boucher in Game 3, making 31 ticked-off stops as the Komets won 3-1. Then he made 40 more saves in a 5-4 double-overtime win in Game 4. Then he kicked out 32 shots in a 4-1 win in Game 6.
And the finals?
Well, what superlatives are left to describe Game 1 in Wichita, when he flat stole a 5-3 win with a 13-save third period that left everyone who saw it shaking their heads? And what about Game 2, when he backstopped a 6-3 win that slapped a chokehold on the series?
Ironically, Boucher didn’t have to be that great every night, because the Komets gave him 5.4 goals per game to work with and dominated with a suffocating forecheck. But when he needed to be, he was.
Which is why he has those 34 playoff victories, including a record-tying 12 this season. And why he has those four titles in five years. And why he’s never lost an elimination game.
I’ve always just taken pride in it, he said Monday night. There’s a lot of goalies that can win in the regular season. But when every save makes a difference; that’s a mark of a good goalie in the playoffs when you make those saves.
Go ahead. Booooo-shhh him one more time.