Cal Petersen, American goaltending star?
If you have followed the Los Angeles Kings over the past two years, you didn’t need anyone to tell you that. But given that he has mainly split the net with Jonathan Quick over that span on one of the league’s weakest teams, there’s a good chance you haven’t followed his progress too much.
USA has dressed four goaltenders at the World Championship, with Petersen, Jake Oettinger and Anthony Stolarz all seeing action at some point. Stolarz only played four minutes before he was pulled due to an injury against Canada two games in and Drew Commesso was called in to be the team’s third goalie. Oettinger had some great moments, but the true hero for the Americans has been Petersen.
“I think the way the team is right now and the way that we play, I think it doesn’t matter who’s in the net,” Petersen said following Thursday’s victory against. “Just we’re both going to give each other a lot of support, and each of us is going to give the team an opportunity to win.”
It’s great and all that Petersen is humble about the situation, but he’s been the best goalie in the tournament, period. His 1.01 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in five games with two shutouts and a 4-1-0 record is tops in all categories, and while Oettinger has been good when needed, Petersen has been a difference-maker for the Americans on multiple occasions. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game, with his only loss coming in a tight 2-1 game to Finland to open the event up.
Petersen’s 33-save run against a German team that needed the points to secure a playoff spot back on Monday was huge, and he followed it up with a 27-save effort in the quarter-finals. Sure, the score was 6-1, but Petersen truly played a good game, even if he didn’t need to.
Petersen’s play in the American crease has been the best since Connor Hellebuyck showed up on the scene before he had even become an NHL starting goalie back in 2015. Hellebuyck went 7-1-0 that year, with the only loss coming in the semifinal.
Comparing Petersen to one of the generation’s top goaltenders is definitely something, but Petersen has been the backbone for an American team that didn’t have a ton of direction heading into the tournament. It’s definitely one of the best tournament runs in recent years for the Americans and one that’ll put him in heavy award consideration. Germany’s Mathias Niederberger and Finland’s Jussi Olkinuora are both more than worthy of the award, so it could come down to how each of the three goalies performs on Semifinal Saturday.
Petersen was a busy bee in Los Angeles this year. He made at least 30 saves 14 times this season, having to face off against heavyweight teams such as Colorado, Vegas and St. Louis. The Kings are still a few years away from being a true contender, but with Jonathan Quick playing his final few years of competitive hockey, it’s Petersen’s crease now. He’s the man tabbed to lead the team to future Stanley Cup runs from the crease, and USA is putting its faith into him now in hopes of winning gold for the first time since 1960 – back when the Winter Olympics doubled as the World Championship.
We finally get to see what Petersen is capable of on a competitive hockey team. Not that being a star at the World Championship is an indicator of whether or not you’ll be so in the NHL, but the Kings have to be impressed with his ability to keep his team in games. Despite being the top seed from Group B, it wasn’t like the team absolutely lit up Latvia, Germany, Kazakhstan or Italy in this tournament. The games were relatively close and in some cases, they needed the goaltending to step up.
And step up he has done, indeed. But the real challenge still remains.
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