McKenna Match of the Day: March 31 – Devon Levi vs. Jaroslav Halak
Former NHL goaltender Mike McKenna gives his Daily face-to-face Start of the goalkeeper match of the day for Friday. March 31, 2023:
Why I love this game:
With all due respect to 17-year-old NHL veteran Jaroslav Halak, tonight’s game is all about Devon Levi. To me, he’s the most exciting goalie prospect to come out of the NCAA division. 1 since Ryan Miller turned pro in 2002.
To monitor :
Levi has had nearly two weeks of training with the Sabers – more than enough time to acclimate to the NHL. But he also enters the lion’s den against the New York Rangers, a team that can absolutely punish goaltenders. Perhaps the saving grace is that the Rangers are playing their second game in two days and the Sabers haven’t played since Monday. Buffalo will be fresh, as will Levi.
I recently wrote an article on what to expect from Levi which details his technical game. He has all the tools to be an outstanding goaltender in the NHL, but there are things to watch out for. He’s undersized at 6-foot-0. And he tends to get low and wide as the game approaches. But Levi is a strong skater with exceptional balance. The key for the Sabers is to be patient with him. They’re here for the long haul with Levi.
Halak is coming off two straight wins for the Rangers, including a 22-save shutout against the Nashville Predators just over a week ago. The veteran goaltender had a rough start in the Big Apple, but turned things around at the start of the 2023 calendar year – he’s 8-2-2 since Jan. 1. Halak has a .905 save percentage in 22 games.
What fantasy owners should do:
If your team is in a goalie league, hopefully you’ve already considered catching Levi. I don’t know if he will spend his entire career in the NHL, or if he will succeed right away. He might need some time in the AHL. But Levi can potentially be a true No. 1 in the NHL. Halak has been hit or miss all season for fantasy owners and Rangers tend to give up rushing chances – something Buffalo is strong at finishing. So I would be careful playing with him.
Conclusion for Devon Levi:
Expectations are high for Levi in Buffalo. But he’s only 21. Tonight is the first leg of a long journey.
Conclusion for Jaroslav Halak:
With the way Rangers can score, he probably just needs to keep Buffalo three or less.