Ville Husso wasn’t a household name when he made his playoff debut Monday for the St. Louis Blues, but he played like one.
Solid this season while beating Jordan Binnington for his playoff role, he was even better in the Blues’ 4-0 Game 1 win at Xcel Energy Center. Although the Wild outshot St. Louis 37-21, Husso became the first Blues goaltender to record a shutout in his playoff debut.
Still, the Wild barely considered the 27-year-old Husso unbeatable heading into Game 2 on Wednesday. Minnesota hit four posts and/or bars in Monday’s game, and coach Dean Evason said his analytics staff counted 10 quality scoring chances on the team’s six power plays that n have not been registered.
If disappointed Wild fans remembered the goaltenders who once shut down their team in the playoffs — Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguère in 2003, Jake Allen of the Blues in 2017 — the players, well, most of them don’t. weren’t even there for the last.
They weren’t ready to give Husso any special powers. He’s been good in the regular season — 25-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in a career-high 42 starts — but not out of this world.
“Husso made some good saves,” Wild winger Kevin Fiala said after the game. “You can’t say we haven’t tried. We had great chances five against five, and on the power play as well. We hit the bar I don’t know how many times today. It can go the other way and it looks different.
Like former Wild goaltender and fellow Finn Niklas Backstrom, Husso has a reputation for being somewhat taciturn. When asked this week if he’s ever seen Husso scream and scream, Blues defenseman Justin Faulk of South St. Paul replied, “I mean, for his level of excitement, yes.”
“Maybe not the level of David Perron,” he added, “but few people get to that level.”
Whether the Blues or the Wild win the series, Husso is in line for a serious raise. Earning $750,000 this season, he’s an unrestricted free agent after the season — which could prove a problem for St. Louis. Bennington, 18-14-4 with a 3.22 GAA and .901 save percentage, signed a six-year, $36 million contract in March 2021.
Husso edged out future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday, but he also had much better assist ahead of him, especially on the penalty kill. The Wild had their chances but were 0 for 6 with a powerplay. Husso said the Blues’ kill was his best of the season, high praise for a unit that finished the regular season ranked fifth with an 84.1 kill rate.
“Guys make it easy for me,” Husso said. “The shots come from outside and they block the shots.”
That has to change, Evason said. In Game 2, he said, the Wild’s forwards need to be better to get rebounds and build traffic past the young Finn.
“Put pucks on him that he can’t see,” Evason said.