Garret Sparks has historic debut with Maple Leafs
1st Leafs goalie to record shutout in NHL debut
Garret Sparks certainly knows how to make a great first impression.
In his first career NHL start, the rookie delivered a shutout in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers Monday night at Air Canada Centre.
How historic was his performance?
Well, Sparks became the first goaltender in team history to debut with a shutout.
He also earned Toronto's first shutout since Jonathan Bernier blanked the Dallas Stars on Dec. 23, 2014.
His best moment came in the second with about a minute remaining in the period. The fairy tale almost came to an end at that point, but the young goalie made an impressive stick save to keep the Leafs ahead 1-0.
Garret Sparks keeps it out. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TMLtalk?src=hash">#TMLtalk</a> <a href="https://t.co/eQ2KP2OkS1">pic.twitter.com/eQ2KP2OkS1</a>—@MapleLeafs
With James Reimer injured and Jonathan Bernier winless in his nine starts, Leafs coach Mike Babcock felt the time was right to start Sparks.
His instincts were spot on as Sparks stopped all 24 of Edmonton's shots.
"Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity. Obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence. He played well, we got a win," Babcock said about the rookie's performance, noting that if Reimer isn't ready to play in Wednesday's game at Winnipeg, Sparks will get the start.
When awarded the game's first star, Sparks was overcome with emotion, thanked the crowd and skated away.
"That was a completely new experience and I enjoyed every minute of it," Sparks told reporters after the game. "I'm sure it'll hit me at some point. It just hasn't yet."
Garret Sparks: The first <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Leafs?src=hash">#Leafs</a> goalie to record a shutout in his NHL debut. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TMLtalk?src=hash">#TMLtalk</a> <a href="https://t.co/KK0R9v6TXv">pic.twitter.com/KK0R9v6TXv</a>—@MapleLeafs
One year ago, the Leafs' draft pick was playing for the Orlando Solar Bears in the East Coast Hockey League.
The 22-year-old Illinois native was picked in the seventh round (190th overall) by Toronto in the 2011 NHL entry draft.
Garret Sparks fought back tears when asked about his parents: "I owe everything to them" <a href="https://t.co/puMMDfnjbs">pic.twitter.com/puMMDfnjbs</a>—@markhmasters
With files from The Canadian Press