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Cayden Primeau stepped up at the right time

All season long, the Rocket’s depth in net was one of their strengths. Therefore, it’s not too surprising to see that this depth helped launch the team to its first series win in its young history by eliminating the Syracuse Crunch in five games.

After Kevin Poulin, who greatly contributed to the team’s playoff berth, got the first start of the series against Syracuse, Cayden Primeau took the job and ran with it, never looking back after that.

“It was good to get in a playoff game” admitted Primeau after game 2, which was his first of the series. “You got to be ready for when your name is called.”

Primeau is not kidding around when he talks about staying ready. The 22 years old goaltender has been simply excellent in his four outings against Syracuse. He stopped 125 of the 133 shots he faced against the Crunch, which gives him a save percentage of 94%. Among all goalies who played at least 120 minutes of playoff hockey in the AHL this year, this is the best save percentage.

When it comes to goals against average (1.96), Cayden Primeau slides all the way to second place in the league. It really shows how the young goalie is showing off during the most important moments of the Laval Rocket young history.

Obviously, he does it behind a really solid defensive squad but you can’t attribute all of his success to that group either. It gets pretty obvious when you focus of the shot locations Primeau has faced during those four games against the Crunch.

In three of those four games, including the last one where everything was on the line, Primeau faced at least 20 shots from the slot. In total, he blocked 66 of the 72 shots that were coming from close against the Syracuse Crunch and in a matchup that close, it certainly made the difference.

His coach, Jean-François Houle even made sure to note it while talking to the media after game #5. When asked about the underrated contribution of his captain Xavier Ouellet, Houle made sure to talk about his goalie too.

“He plays good hockey, big minutes, he wants to win and he is a good leader” started Houle talking about his captain. “Cayden Primeau too, who made an extraordinary save in the second frame to save the game. Cayden made some really big saves for us.”

No shortage of heroes in Laval

Naturally, Cédric Paquette will receive a lot of attention for his tying goal in the dying seconds and so will Gabriel Bourque, who literally sent the Laval Rocket in the next round of the playoffs with his game winning goal in overtime.

They both deserve it but that being said, to beat a team like the Crunch, a team needs more that a few heroes and it’s exactly what happened with the Laval Rocket in this series. It starts with Cayden Primeau, who was superb but he is far from the only one.

Sami Niku showed out by being the only Laval player with a point-per-game pace in this round while Alex Belzile scored four times in five games. Both players participated on Laval’s first goal of the game on the power play. At the time, in the middle frame, it was cutting the deficit in half, which allowed Laval to believe later in the game.

The other player who got a point on that goal was Louie Belpedio. Like he did all year, the #7 did some excellent work a bit under the radar that allowed the Rocket to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone.

In this series, he led all Laval’s defensemen in terms of scoring chances differential at 5 on 5. It was boosted by an exceptional fifth game. In this last matchup, Belpedio ended up with a +6 in the scoring chances differential column. He was on the ice for 9 of the 18 Laval’s chances at 5 on 5 while also being dominant in shot attempts differential (+18 Laval).

No one maintained a bigger shot attempts differential for the Rocket in this game and the only one who did better in terms of % was Jesse Ylönen with a rocking 80%. It’s not a coincidence that Belpedio was one of the first to congratulate Bourque after his game-winning goal; he was already on the ice and when that happens, the Rocket tends to play in the offensive zone.

At forward, some fans might be disappointed to see Rafaël Harvey-Pinard with “only” two assists against the Crunch after his offensive explosion late in the season and his style of play that we can qualify as appropriate for the postseason.

If you’re in the camp, don’t worry, that should change soon. Like it was the case all year, the #11 did really well in 5 on 5 play. He led all Rocket players who played the 5 games with a Corsi percentage of 58.33%.

The forward also led the team in scoring chances differential at 5 on 5 with +9. When you know that Laval conceded a small edge to the Crunch in that statistical category during the series, it’s impressive to see that RHP was able to build that much of a cushion for his team. It shows he’s always in the right places.

It’s surely promising for what’s coming next!