Heeter Loses Shootout In NHL Debut
Sunday afternoon didn't go exactly as Cal Heeter planned, but it was a memorable experience nonetheless for the rookie goalie, who made his NHL debut.
Heeter allowed five goals, including one in the shootout as the Flyers failed to complete one more comeback. They lost 6-5 in a shootout in their final game of the season before they begin a playoff series with the Rangers.
Heeter showed obvious jitters in the first period, allowing three goals while fighting with the puck for the first 20 minutes. He settled down for the remaining 45 minutes, allowing his team to climb back into the game and force overtime.
Heeter had no problem with admitting to reporters after the game he was nervous and that it showed in his play.
Like the good captain that he was, Claude Giroux skated over to Heeter, tapped him on the pads and calmed down the rookie goaltender.
“He said, 'Calm down, you’re fine, smile, have some fun, enjoy your time, it’s not the end of the world,'" Heeter said after the game. "Their playoff position was secured so there was really nothing on the line.
"I still wanted to play better. It’s not to say that you want to go out there and be happy with an average performance. But he said to calm down, take it one shot at a time, and just relax.”
Heeter relaxed, allowing just two goals stopping 23 shots in the final 45 minutes of play. In all, Heeter made 33 saves on 38 shots, getting the overtime loss.
Heeter was beat once in the shootout, a straight snap shot from Eric Staal that was the only tally in the shootout period for either team. Jason Akeson, making his season debut, Giroux and Sean Couturier were stopped in their chances by Anton Khubodin.
It was an unusual debut for Heeter - not the way he would have drawn it up he said. But it was memorable nonetheless, and a dream come true for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound 25-year-old who spent all season with Adirondack.
"It’s a dream come true," Heeter said. "I had a great time. Yeah, things didn’t go the way I wanted or really anybody wanted, but at the end of the day I still have a smile on my face and I accomplished part of my dream.
"At this point you can’t become complacent, you always have to keep working or this could be your last game.”
Heeter was then asked about the fans of Philadelphia, a group that has a reputation for being a little too honest with their opinion of the players on the ice, especially a goaltender who allows five goals in a game.
Heeter's answer may have been the first true sign of maturity, as he understands where he's playing. He calls it a love and hate relationship with the fans.
"They love you when you’re making saves, hate you when you’re not," Heeter said, putting himself in their shoes. "You can’t hold it against them. I’d be the same way if I were sitting in the stands.”