Comox’s Adin Hill is a Stanley Cup champion.
After beginning the season as the team’s third-string goalie and serving as the backup for the playoffs, Hill has emerged as a pivotal figure in leading the Vegas Golden Knights to the promised land.
The Vegas netminder earned his 11th and most important victory of the playoffs Tuesday night, making 32 saves in a 9-3 drubbing of the Florida Panthers.
Vegas won the series 4-1, and Hill became the first goaltender in NHL history to win more than 10 games in the playoffs without playing the first round.
Florida, who’s emotional heartbeat in Matthew Tkachuk was sidelined by injury, came out with purpose in the first period, but were eventually thwarted by Vegas’ relentless attack.
They just kept coming in waves.
Florida controlled the play in large stretches before Mark Stone came down on a partial breakaway and buried a shorthanded marker against the run of play
Hill made a few timely saves after that and turned aside eight Panthers shots to shepherd the Knights along to a 2-0 lead after the first period.
But those pesky Panthers wouldn’t go away. Florida cut the lead in half just two minutes into the 2nd period, after a quick Aaron Ekblad point shot deflected off a Vegas defender and past Hill to put a damper at T-Mobile arena.
Then it was all Vegas.
The Golden Knights peppered Sergei Bobrovksy with 14 shots in the 2nd period, scoring 4 goals in the process. They took a commanding 6-1 lead into the third, and party mode in Vegas would slowly ramp up in the final period before bringing it home to the 9-3 final score.
Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable player in the playoffs.
The Golden Knights were 15-0 coming into the game when scoring 3 goals or more, and would end the game a perfect 16-0 for the playoffs.
King of the Hill
Given that Hill entered the 2022-23 season 3rd on the Golden Knights goaltending depth chart, the fact that he even got a shot to backstop the top-seeded Golden Knights is somewhat ridiculous.
As a franchise, Vegas has also been cut throat when it comes to roster decisions, particularly in net. Marc-Andre Fleury was the franchise icon when they first joined the league in 2018, and yet in 2020 they still pursued and signed Robin Lehner to a 5 year, $25 million contract after a strong few seasons with the Islanders and Blackhawks. Fleury was later dealt that summer.
They’ve also shipped out original Vegas players like Alex Tuch and Nate Schmidt the moment other options became available – namely Jack Eichel and Alex Pietrangelo.
For Hill to emerge as the Stanley Cup winning netminder among their goaltender carousel is quite something.
This season, Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit started the year as the starting duo, but both players suffered injuries throughout the year, creaking the door open for Hill. He played well throughout the regular season, going 16-7-1 with a .915 save percentage, but never played more than 5 times in a month. It was Thompson’s net to lose.
But Thompson went down for the season just a few weeks before the playoffs on March 23rd, opening all sorts of questions about Vegas’ goaltending for the playoffs.
Hill himself was injured on March 8th, and didn’t suit up again until dressing as the backup in game two against Vegas’ first round series against Winnipeg.
With Thompson out, Vegas’ duo of Laurent Brossoit and Hill weren’t exactly instilling a lot of confidence – so it was goaltending alone that had any pundits doubting Vegas throughout the playoffs.
Brossoit handled the Jets in round 1, but after being pulled in game 2 of their 2nd round series against the Oilers, Hill took the net and never looked back.
And you can guarantee those pundits didn’t expect Adin Hill to go on a magical 11-3 run from then on.
Nor did they suspect him to carry a .932 save percentage.
Nor, it seems, did they think he would win 3 series’ for them.
But it’s Hill who gets the last laugh, and it’s him to gets to stand on top of the hockey world as Stanley Cup champion.
And the king of the hill.