Nick Boucher knows how to amp up his game in the postseason.
How else do you explain a goaltender that split playing time each of the past two seasons, yet wound up hoisting the Turner Cup as the Komets’ go-to netminder in the the playoffs?
Playoffs is all you live for, Boucher said. You live and breathe hockey. And you’ve just got to increase your focus level.
The Komets open the best-of-seven playoff semifinals at 7 p.m. today at Memorial Coliseum against the Port Huron Icehawks, a team that knows all too well just how great Boucher, 29, can be when the pressure is high.
When the Komets fell behind the Icehawks 3-1 in the 2008 Finals, they turned to Boucher, not Kevin Reiter, who was the league’s top goaltender that season.
Boucher carried Fort Wayne to three straight victories, including the epic triple-overtime Game 7, stopping 121 of 129 shots.
Last season, Boucher backed up 22 games during the regular season, though he was so impressive when he did play that he took IHL Goaltender of the Year honors and was the MVP runner-up to Muskegon forward Todd Robinson. In the playoffs, Boucher was money – again. He went 8-3-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.
Komets coach Al Sims has been mum on whether he would go tonight with Tim Haun, the IHL’s Goaltender of the Year this season, or Boucher. Haun went 27-11-2 and led the IHL in GAA (2.12) and save percentage (.923), while Boucher was 23-10-3 and ranked second with his 2.49 GAA and .921 save percentage.
Regardless of who starts, Boucher will do his part.
Boucher has taught me a lot about the game, especially just about battling night in and night out, the 29-year-old Haun said. When he got hurt for a while at the beginning of the season, if he saw me play one weak game or do something that wasn’t my best, he’d come back here and he’d be like, You’ve got another game tomorrow night, so keep going.’ He’s helped me with a lot of mental things, or just little things that needed to be picked out that aren’t real obvious things.
Boucher, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, knows he’s not physically intimidating.
It’s less about the physical part of it, he said. You’re not out there having to skate much. With goalies, it’s mostly about the focus, and once the playoffs roll around, everything just gets notched up to a different level.
Boucher has the IHL’s best defense in front of him – 2.41 goals against per game – and that stinginess makes his job easier, especially in the playoffs.
But there’s something special about a goaltender who can shrug off the magnitude of a potential Cup-winning game, even if it takes overtime, or three of them.
No matter what anyone says, you can’t treat it like any other game, Boucher said. You can go in there with that mindset and just go out there and play your game, but you know there are implications and ramifications of a (potential) Cup-winning or deciding game. You know that as much as anyone else. As hard as you want to say, It’s just another game,’ you know it’s not.
And when the Komets play a huge game, they know they can count on Boucher.