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Why Peter Budaj Deserves to Be a 2017 NHL All-Star

by Chanelle Berlin and Diane Phan @thxbud /

You start a winner, and he goes down hurt.



You play a great replacement, and he goes down!

Are you in dire need of a goaltender with a clean bill of health? Luckily, there's a perfect solution!




Watching Peter Budaj feels so normal now that it's tough to remember the LA Kings called him up out of desperation. Injuries to Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff (who has since returned) suddenly made the team's situation in net a huge question mark. Halfway through the season, Peter Budaj isn't just surviving - he's contending with the league's best.


The Eastern Conference is stacked with All-Star caliber goaltending right now. The Central division is Devan Dubnyk's domain. Out west, Budaj is battling to rule the Pacific.



As of Sunday, his .919 save percentage has him nipping at the heels of Edmonton's Cam Talbot and within striking distance of Calgary's Chad Johnson, who has also played 11 fewer games. Budaj's 2.03 goals against average is lowest in the division, thanks in part to completing four shutouts. Budaj's enjoying the best numbers of his entire NHL career.


He's gotten more aggressive in net, too, making some of those saves highlight-worthy dazzlers.

 Tweet from @Kingsgifs: Budaj paddle save: #LAKvsSJS



Tweet from @LAKings: That save by Peter Budaj tho ��




Budaj's also an interesting, charming guy off the ice. He plays violin and loves classical music, but he also has thoughts on pop culture phenomenons like "Game of Thrones" and "Top Gear."


He's a committed family man, and he likes to rock masks with Ned Flanders on them, thanks in part to an old trainer calling him "Ned."




He's also a guy who smiles and leans in for selfies.


Tweet from @bookworm123109: You know that goalie @peterbudaj30 that crushed it tonight that I met earlier this week and was honestly so damn nice


Tweet from @tbudar: Today I met the @LAKings player whose last name is almost the same as mine. Thank you @peterbudaj30 !


Trust us, this is important for the number of fan events and photo ops that All-Star weekend provides. No one wants a dead-eyed photo with a player. Think of the memories for the kids. Think of Instagram and Snapchat posts.


When asked about his season, Budaj is still just happy to be playing. "It's just a great experience for me," he said in December. "I'm excited to see what 2017 holds for me and just got to stay humble and try to work hard and take one day at a time but definitely this is a pretty amazing experience."




With no John Scott to tug at our heartstrings, this year's All-Star Game is in serious need of a touching narrative. Consider: A goalie staring down the end of his NHL career takes a PTO and powers up the ranks until he's a starter again. It mirrors the beginning of his career, but this time he's in his 30s. He keeps a city's hopes afloat after witnessing two surprising injuries and gives a "fragile" team a chance. He's a hero.


He's Peter Budaj.



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