It's not often that a goaltender gets the fans oohing and ahhing -- when it's not even his own arena -- but that's exactly what Nick Boucher did last weekend.
The Komets' goaltender stopped 64 of 67 shots in two victories at Bloomington, Ill., with myriad saves that left people gasping, "How did he do that?"
"I don't think you can get any better goaltending than what Bouch has given us," said Fort Wayne coach Al Sims, whose team can close out the best-of-five first-round series with a victory Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum.
There were so many exhilarating saves in the 5-2 and 3-1 victories, but probably the best came with Fort Wayne clinging to a one-goal lead midway through Game 2. Jon Booras, one of the best shooters in the CHL, snapped a shot from point-blank range. Boucher clipped it with his shoulder, but the puck sailed into the air, slid down his back and appeared to be going into the net. Boucher dove backward and swept it outside the left goalpost.
"Oh, he's been awesome, man," Komets center Leo Thomas said. "He's a different player in the playoffs. He's seeing everything and he's been exactly what we've needed (in this series)."
Boucher, 30, backstopped the Komets to the last three IHL championships, guiding them back from 3-1 deficits in best-of-seven series during the 2008 finals and 2010 semifinals against Port Huron. He has won 19 of his last 27 playoff games.
"Obviously, I feel pretty good in the pipes right now," said Boucher, who was 18-15-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in the regular season. "But the guys are sacrificing in front; it's a war zone in front of our net right now. We're blocking shots, clearing rebounds, knocking guys down. We're playing playoff hockey right now and it's making my life a little bit easier to play back there because the guys are doing a better job than we did in the regular season."
One such example was center Danny Lapointe's deflection of a Dustin DeGagne shot, after Boucher got pushed out of the crease in Game 2. And Boucher, who has the best GAA and save percentage among the 15 CHL goalies that have played at least two games, has had to be solid against a Bloomington team that beat the Komets in 7 of 10 regular-season games.
It should be noted that Boucher hasn't had any time off since the summer of 2009 because he spent last summer playing in Australia.
"People are always saying that experience doesn't matter," Boucher said. "But the people who say that are the ones without experience. There are so many ups and downs in a series, and it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. Players who haven't been through too many playoff battles don't maybe understand that. ... It's a war of attrition and we've just got to keep going and finish this off at home as soon as we can."
At the Coliseum, Boucher was 13-6-5 with a 2.74 GAA and a .907 save percentage in the regular season, compared to his road numbers of 5-9-1 with a 3.31 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
"He keeps us in the game, gives us momentum all the time," said center Mathieu Curadeau, who leads the Komets with three goals and six points in the playoffs. "Boucher is big for us right now and everybody has confidence in him."
- Bloomington's Garrett Klotz has been called up to the American Hockey League. Click here to read more.
- The Pantagraph has more: The PrairieThunder must improve on its special-teams play.
- Greg Rajan has a post on an interesting slew-footing incident with a referee. Click here. You really should watch it a few times. Maybe not at first glance, but the more you watch it, the more it looks intentional.