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Stadium Series Moment Not Too Big for Young Nico Daws

Calm, cool, and collected, 23-year-old goaltender Nico Daws helped the Devils cruise to a Stadium Series victory making 45 saves.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New Jersey Devils goaltender Nico Daws never imagined himself as the starting goaltender of the 2024 NHL Stadium Series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Daws (23) began the 2023-24 on the season-opening injured reserve following hip surgery that kept him sidelined for six months dating back to last season. It wasn’t until December 8th when Daws returned to the ice for in-game action when he pitched a 31-save victory allowing just one goal against the Bridgeport Islanders in his first game action since April 14th, 2023.

Fast forward to mid-December when the Devils recalled Daws for the first time to the varsity squad, it was certainly a surprise to see New Jersey not give the German goaltender a longer stint in the AHL in his recovery process.

However, when Daws first spoke with the media, he disclosed he felt the best he ever had following the surgery that fixed his hip. Further, he explained he can now do things he wasn’t able to do pre-surgery, such as quicker lateral movement, that was unable to do before.

On Friday following the Devils’ test run on the outdoor rink, New Jersey Hockey Now asked Daws if his hip was feeling 100%.

“The doctors said it’s obviously not gonna be 100% right away, but I mean, if this isn’t 100% then I’m excited to see what 100% is, Daws explained. “I feel really good. I’ve talked to (Akira Schmid) about it. It’s different feelings. You know, the soreness is a different kind of sore. And, you know, the good feeling is it’s a better good kind of good feeling. So it’s kind of fun to learn the new nobody.”

Well, he looks 100% to everyone around him. Following the Devils’ 6-3 victory over the Flyers at the Stadium Series, Daws’ teammates couldn’t stop singing his praises.

“I think for a couple of weeks now you’ve seen he’s been awesome,” Nathan Bastian explained. “Goaltending is such a huge part of the game. All of our goalies have helped us at different points. There’s been stretches of the season where as a group we’ve played some tough hockey and it’s made our goalies look bad. Lately, Nico’s been making us look good. Having a guy back there who is playing, he’s young and so confident. It’s so promising for us.”

Confidence surely is the key for Daws. What’s amazing about Daws is his ability to keep things calm mentally. Following Saturday night’s victory in front of 70,000-plus fans, Daws explained that despite all the distractions at MetLife Stadium, it was just another hockey game.

“I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just another hockey game,” Daws explained. “Obviously, the venue is different and there are a lot more fans than normal. But, when the pucks down it’s just hockey.”

Daws collected his sixth win of the season on Saturday making 45 saves on 48 shots from Philadelphia. According to MoneyPuck, Daws made 1.9 saves above expected and increased his GSAx to 4.3. That’s significant given the fact that both Schmid and Vitek Vanecek each have negative expected save percentages, especially Vanecek as one of the NHL’s worst goaltenders this season.

The Flyers swung momentum in their direction during the second period on Saturday. They peppered Daws with 27 shots on goal and scored two goals, one at even strength and one on the power play, both by Owen Tippett. Daws explained he and the Devils knew the Flyers would come out desperate in the third period, but keeping composure was the key to success in the third period.

“Yeah just keep it tight,” Daws said of the plan heading into the third period with a lead. “They’ve got a skilled team obviously and they work really hard. We knew they were gonna push so just tried to keep it tight. And you know, we scored some goals and it worked out well.”

Daws has quickly worked his way to the top of the Devils’ goaltending depth chart. His calm, cool, and collected approach coupled with his ability to read the game really well and his athleticism has made him New Jersey’s most reliable goaltender on the roster. It’s no secret that the Devils are in the goaltending market ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. However, even if the Devils do end up with someone new in net, Daws appears ready to stay in the mix for starting goaltender duties, especially after a high-stakes game on one of the grandest stages in his career.

“(The Flyers) got us on our heels (in the second period),” head coach Lindy Ruff said after the victory. “We made some poor decisions with the puck a couple of times. There are times when your team needs the goaltender just to step up and settle things down. Make that saves and it gets the guys up on the bench. And I think what Nico did was, you know, kind of quiet things down. I mean, when you get the big saves and you’ve had that shift where you’re hemmed in your end and there’s two or three plays around the net and your goaltenders made the saves, it’s almost as good as scoring a goal.”

“I thought Nico gave us a heck of a game for a guy that was put in a situation that is, you know, if you want to use the line, ‘You gotta be comfortable being uncomfortable,’ he gave us a great game.”

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