Despite the loss, Daniil Tarasov showed well.
Yes, it was a 3-2 defeat for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. And yes, Columbus has dropped three in a row – but considering the circumstances (missing two goalies due to illness in the morning), there's something to work with.
Tarasov let in an early goal from Jason Robertson at the 1:08 mark of the first period but otherwise looked cool and calm under pressure. The 22-year-old Russian rookie made 34 saves on 37 shots in the loss.
The emergency start for Tarasov came about after the unexpected news that both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo were battling illness (non-COVID) on Thursday morning prior to the game. Merzlikins was cleared and able to serve as Tarasov's backup.
Check out Tarasov's stops on Miro Heiskanen and Jason Robertson during a Stars' rush in the third period to keep it a one-goal game.
What did head coach Brad Larsen think of Tarasov's first crack at the NHL?
"Really good. It's a tough first game, you fly all day and a lot to process for him I'm sure and I thought he did excellently," said Larsen.
One of the keys to the game was playing well in front of Tarasov to limit chances in the first period and help ease him in.
"I thought we played well in front of him for the rest of that (first) period to let him settle in a little bit," Larsen said. "We didn't give up a chance after that (first goal). To battle in front of him and let him get his feet underneath him, because, yeah that's a tough start. You give up one there, and not really much he can do about it, but I thought he did a really good job today."
Tarasov might have been nervous, but he sure didn't show it.
"He's not a goalie that's flopping around, that's for sure," Larsen said. "He's very in control of his game. I said it before the game... if he's nervous, he hides it really well. He's just a really calm kid. I'm sure on the inside he had some butterflies...he's not human if he didn't. Your first game in the NHL, he'll never forget that and he did a heck of a job tonight."
Tarasov echoed Larson's sentiments about how he was feeling during his big day for the Blue Jackets on Thursday.
"I felt good. First NHL game, it's a dream come true," said Tarasov. "I texted my dad and my mom and they said 'Have fun, it's a big day.'"
Was the young goalie nervous?
"Just a little bit, yeah," Tarasov said. "On the first shot, it's nothing. I think it's guys helping me a lot to not be nervous today, so it feels good."
Merzlikins told his fellow goaltender just before the game, "Don't worry about anything, just play, have fun."
Tarasov was drafted in 2017, a third-round pick of the Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekalainen. This season is his second in North America, where he’s been playing for the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. He’s played well in nine games, posting a 5-2-2 record (2.96 GAA, .897 save percentage).
We will see how long the Blue Jackets need to rely on Tarasov's services at the NHL level while Merzlikins and Korpisalo get better. On Friday, Korpisalo was placed on IR retroactive to Dec. 1. In the meantime, Thursday's game showed the potential and high ceiling of what Tarasov has to offer for the Blue Jackets at the NHL level in the near future.