Call him “Humble Harri.”
Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner recently credited goalie Harri Sateri with saving the franchise’s season.
“I feel really good about [Boughner’s comment],” Sateri said. “I don’t know if I saved the season, but hopefully I helped them with those three wins.”
That’s typical humility for Sateri, a native of Finland who actually won four games in a row. Sateri allowed just six goals in those four games, igniting a Panthers run toward a potential playoff spot, a 17-5-1 spurt in the first 23 games since Jan. 30.
Sateri’s last game with the Panthers was Feb. 9. With starter Roberto Luongo and backup James Reimer now healthy, Sateri is back with the Panthers’ minor-league affiliate, the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.
Springfield coach Geordie Kinnear said he has the “utmost respect” for Sateri.
“He’s the type of determined person you want around you,” Kinnear said. “I’ve been in the American Hockey League a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of guys give up. ‘It’s not meant to be.’ But Harri has kept going.”
Sateri was just 18 in 2008 when he was drafted in the fourth round by the San Jose Sharks, just 13 selections after the Washington Capitals selected star goalie Braden Holtby. However, Sateri never played for the Sharks. He spent four years in the AHL, playing for the Sharks’ affiliate, and three more in Russia’s KHL.
On July 1, 2017, the Panthers signed him as goalie insurance they hoped they’d never need, stashing him back in the AHL.
But on Jan. 2, 2018, four days after his 28th birthday, Sateri made his NHL debut with the Panthers, entering the game in the second period in relief of Reimer. Sateri allowed one goal on 14 Minnesota Wild shots, and his NHL career was finally underway.
Sateri’s four-game winning streak stretched from Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, defeating the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres on the road and then the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks at home.
It was a culmination of a vision he said started having when he was just three years old, watching NHL highlight shows every Sunday back in Finland. Goalie was always his position, and now here he was, stopping NHL shooters in their tracks.
“My family was proud of me, and I was proud of myself, too,” Sateri said. “I had been dreaming about this since I was a little boy, playing in the NHL and getting wins.
“I tried to focus on my job, but I also kind of enjoyed it. I always taught myself that this is my dream, and I need to enjoy it.”
A 6-1, 205-pounder, Sateri describes himself as a “pretty modern butterfly” styled goalie.
“I’m not as big as the biggest guys in the NHL,” he said, “so I have to move a little more.”
Like many goalies, Sateri said he likes to get a fairly heavy amount of shots because that keeps him in the game mentally as opposed to long lulls and then a sudden flurry.
As of the start of this week, his numbers with the Panthers fit in comfortably between Luongo and Reimer.
In nine NHL games, including seven starts, Sateri had a .911 save percentage, 2.92 goals-against average, .571 quality-start percentage and zero RBS (really bad starts).
Reimer’s numbers: .910 save percentage; 3.06 GAA; .486 quality-start percentage; and 7 RBS.
For Luongo, it’s a .928 save percentage; 2.53 GAA, .679 quality starts; and 3 RBS.
Kinnear, the AHL coach, said Sateri started slowly with Springfield this season.
“But he never stopped believing,” Kinnear said. “He never gives up on a shot. When he’s at his best, he’s aggressive. He’s a fighter.
“There will be two or three chances, and yet he’s always competing. You think the puck is going into the net, and he comes up with a ‘Grade A’ save. He loves being in the net, and he has laser focus.”
As good as Sateri was for the Panthers this season, he is a free agent this summer and is unlikely to return because Luongo and Reimer are still under contract.
“It would be awesome if I’m back with Florida,” Sateri said. “But my goal is to get a regular job in the NHL.”
Gone from the Panthers this summer? Perhaps, but he shouldn’t be forgotten.