After a six-game run as Steve Mason's backup from March 1-11, Cal Heeter finally got a chance to fulfill his childhood dream when he made his NHL debut.
For Heeter, the 25-year-old Ohio State product, it just might not have gone the way he envisioned. He lost, 6-5, in a shootout.
"In my dreams, I'd say I didn't give up six goals, but it was a fabulous experience," Heeter said. "I've been working my whole life to get here and to finally get the opportunity to play a game and have the support of management, coaches, players . . . It's a dream come true. I had a great time."
Heeter allowed four goals on his first 12 shots in the first 20:17 of his career. The Flyers, without much to play for themselves, bailed him out to get to the shootout. It was clear nerves were a factor, with at least two of the pucks dribbling through Heeter's five-hole.
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But an early pep talk from Claude Giroux helped to settle him down. The Flyers required Heeter's services after Mason (day-to-day, upper-body injury) went down on Saturday in Pittsburgh. It was clear Craig Berube wasn't about to risk the health of his only healthy NHL goaltender in Ray Emery to relieve Heeter off the bench.
With that experience under his belt, Heeter could be battling to be Mason's full-time backup next season depending on Emery's status.
"I'd say nerves played a part," Heeter admitted. "You could tell . . . that it took me a while to settle down and feel comfortable out there. I was fighting the puck, a bit unsure in my positioning."
To the surprise of no one, Claude Giroux collected his third Bobby Clarke Trophy in four seasons as the Flyers' most valuable player. Whether or not that will translate into being a finalist for the Hart Trophy as a candidate to be the NHL's most valuable player remains to be seen; writers votes are due on Wednesday.
Rookie Michael Raffl (most improved player), Kimmo Timonen (top defenseman), Jake Voracek (class guy) and Steve Mason (fans' choice most heart) also took home hardware on awards day. Timonen's sixth Barry Ashbee Trophy leaves him one shy of Eric Desjardins' club record of seven.
One player who did not receive an award, though clearly deserving, was Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers' grittiest player scored his career-high 29th goal yesterday, also topping off at a career-best 60 points. Simmonds, 25, closed out the season with 48 points over his last 54 games.