Jason Franson / Canadian Press via AP
Wednesday, May 10, 2023 | 2 a.m.
It’s not the first time Adin Hill had to be the reliever.
The last time it happened, it was the best stretch of the Golden Knights’ goalie’s career. It appears his time has come again to play that role, this time on a grander scale.
Due to the uncertainty involving the noncontact, lower-body injury to Laurent Brossoit, it looks like Hill will get the start for the Golden Knights in Game 4 of their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers tonight (7 p.m., ESPN).
Brossoit left Game 3 on Monday shortly after making a save. Brossoit went from left to right in the crease after the save but did not get up. He could barely put weight on his left leg.
Hill, who hasn’t started since March 7, stopped all 24 shots he faced in the final 48 minutes to secure a 5-1 win for Vegas and a 2-1 series lead.
“It sucks to see your teammate go down like that,” Hill said. “LB’s a great guy and a great goalie. It’s tough to see that, but you have to flip the switch, and you have a hockey game to play.”
The Golden Knights came back from the All-Star break in early February in need of spark after losing seven of nine. Hill stopped 17 of 18 shots in a 5-1 win in Nashville on Feb. 7.
Two nights later at Minnesota, Hill played the final 18 minutes of another 5-1 Vegas win because Logan Thompson sustained a lower-body injury that kept him out for almost the rest of the regular season.
Hill won five of his next six starts that included wins over Eastern Conference powers Tampa Bay, Carolina and New Jersey, the latter being a 47-save performance.
The next start for Hill would be his last of the regular season. He made 34 saves in a 2-1 loss, but a lower-body injury for him ended his career-best campaign (16-7-1, .915 SV%).
Although the third period of Game 2 didn’t matter in terms of importance, Hill thought playing those 20 minutes helped prepare him on Monday. Hill’s last round of live action was a two-period conditioning assignment in Henderson on April 7.
“It was nice to get in there for that third period the other day, kind of get a feel for the game, get up to game speed, because you can’t simulate that in practice,” Hill said.
The Golden Knights have carried this belief all season long that it doesn’t matter who’s playing goalie. That part rings true with five different goalies winning at least one start this season, ranging from Thompson to top goalie prospect Jiri Patera.
Now, the Golden Knights have to rely on that theory one more time. Brossoit was set to have an MRI on Tuesday with the results not available until Wednesday morning.
Barring an unforeseen set of circumstances, Hill will make his first playoff start in a game where should the Golden Knights win, they will need one win out of three games to knock off the proverbial betting favorite to make the Stanley Cup Final out of the Western Conference.
“I’ve never gone through this many that had injuries,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The next guy up has done a good job for us all year. It’s why we’re still playing. The team adapts well to whoever’s in there. We try to play the same way no matter who’s in net.”
If the Golden Knights play like they did in Game 3, there’s a good chance that happens.
Vegas controlled the game at 5-on-5 for the majority of play. All five goals came at even strength, and the Oilers’ record-setting power play had just one full two-minute opportunity the whole game. The Golden Knights killed that penalty off, and the Oilers were held to 0 for 2 on the man advantage.
It was a far cry from the Game 2 loss by the same score, with Vegas giving up two of Edmonton’s three power-play goals in the first seven minutes.
In contrast, the Oilers had a combined four high-danger chances in the first 40 minutes at 5-on-5.
“We trust anyone who goes in,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said of the goalies, “and they’ve been awesome for us.”
Cassidy said if the Golden Knights need to bring up a third goalie, it would be Patera. Thompson hasn’t resumed skating as he continues to rehab from that aforementioned injury from February. Jonathan Quick would be the backup.
It’s a pressure moment for Hill. He enters after watching Brossoit seize the starter’s job by not losing once in regulation until Game 1 of the first round, and had won five straight in the playoffs before Saturday’s Game 2 loss.
Hill won’t be asked to put together another shutout-worthy effort in Game 4, but the Golden Knights have succeeded with a “by-committee” approach in net all season. What’s a few playoff games to further prove that theory?
“That’s something that, obviously, you play with a little more confidence knowing that,” said forward Chandler Stephenson. “We have a lot of faith in Hillsy, and Quickie, too. We’re confident in all their abilities and what they can do.”