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Jeff Glass proves unbreakable in unforgettable NHL debut

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The 32-year-old shut down the Oilers to carry the Blackhawks to victory.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks won a game Friday night thanks to a herculean effort from their goaltender in spite of the defense allowing a plethora of shots on goal. It’s a story you’ve heard many times during the past few years, except it usually starred Corey Crawford as the protagonist.

Jeff Glass is not Corey Crawford. They were drafted a year apart, but their careers quickly diverged from there. Crawford went on to become a two-time Stanley Cup winner and one of the best goalies in the NHL. Glass went on to become a journeyman who spent most of his career in Russia.

Yet their careers managed to converge over the past week leading up to one of the greatest performances of Glass’ career. Without Crawford getting injured, Glass never gets recalled from the AHL.

If the Blackhawks’ goaltenders stay healthy all season, who is to say that Glass gets another chance somewhere else in the future? He’s already 32 years old. Over the past 30 years, only four other goalies have made their NHL debut at that age or older. One of them was an equipment manager who played eight seconds and faced zero shots.

"It’s exciting, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of. I never thought it would actually come true,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus after the game.

So this may have been the chance for Glass at the NHL level. And to think about what he did to get to this point, all the road trips across the Midwest and Siberia and all these other places that aren’t exactly glamorous, it must’ve been quite a stir seeing Connor McDavid flying at him full speed ready to make a move.

Whatever happened Friday was always going to be a temporary thing, being realistic about it all. Glass could’ve imploded in Edmonton and nobody really would’ve batted an eye. He would’ve been the 32-year-old journeyman who got exposed quickly by some of the best players in the world. Even in his success, we all know that his best-case scenario is being the backup once Crawford returns. There’s not really any scenario in which he becomes The Man in Chicago.

But he looked the part for one incredible night in late December, and he’ll always have that no matter what happens from here. He stopped 42 of 45 shots in a road win against a team with one of the best talents in league history. (Only seven goalies have recorded more saves in a debut since 1987, per Play Index.) He took on McDavid for an entire game and didn’t allow him to record a point. He had Patrick Kane praising his “amazing, amazing performance” after Kane himself made an absurd play to win the game. And he did it all with his family in attendance.

Those are things he can take to the bank, even if he’s back in Rockford a couple weeks from now. Glass might’ve bent late in the third period, but he didn’t break. It was an incredible night.