Have you ever encountered a stat or statline that completely throws you off because it seems so random or unbelievable? One of my favorite statlines in franchise history belongs to Niclas Wallin.
To provide some context, I was looking up some stats after Patrice Bergeron announced his retirement to see how he fared in the regular season and the playoffs against the Canes. It turns out he was pretty good.
As a history fan, this piqued my curiosity and made me look at the postseason numbers for the Whalers and the Canes. So many things jumped out to me at once, but one thing I couldn’t shake was the statline of Niclas Wallin.
Wallin, a 4th round pick of the Canes in 2000, spent nine seasons with the Hurricanes and was never considered THE guy on defense. He usually played 16 to 18 minutes per night and never totaled more than four goals or 10 points in the regular season.
His postseason numbers don’t move the needle much, either. While his 69 postseason games are the 2nd most in franchise history and span all 3 of Carolina’s long runs in the 2000s, he scored just three goals and eight points.
So why is Niclas Wallin important, and why is he called “The Secret Weapon?”
Three goals might not look like a lot, but their timing is the stuff of legends. Wallin’s goals were overtime winners in some of the most exciting games in franchise history.
He scored twice during the 2002 playoff run. His first goal capped the “Molson Miracle.” Down 2-1 in the series and trailing the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 entering the third period of Game 4, the Canes stormed back with Erik Cole forcing overtime with a late goal. In overtime, Wallin’s shot from the point found the back of the net, stunning the Montreal crowd as the Canes would eventually take the series in 6 games.
In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wallin knotted the series in Game 2 with his second winner after the Canes allowed a goal late in regulation. This goal made him the first player in franchise history to score multiple overtime goals in one postseason.
Fast forward to 2006, Wallin pulled another rabbit out of his hat during an epic Game 2 in the 2nd Round against the New Jersey Devils. The battle featured two goals in the final 30 seconds, including Eric Staal’s miracle goal with 3 seconds left to force overtime, before Wallin walked in and beat Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goalie in NHL history, in overtime through his five-hole.
To add even more to the legend, Niclas Wallin’s only other postseason goal came in 2011 with the San Jose Sharks, and while it wasn’t an overtime winner, it was a game-winner in a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of the 2nd Round.
For those keeping score at home, that means100% of Niclas Wallin’s postseason goals were game-winners.
Since the Whalers became an NHL franchise, only two other defensemen have scored three overtime goals in the postseason (Brent Seabrook and Ken Morrow). Only Jordan Staal has as many overtime goals in franchise history as Wallin. He’s also one of four Hurricanes with multiple overtime goals in one postseason, along with Cory Stillman in 2006, Jordan Staal in 2021, and Jesper Fast in 2023.
In my humble opinion, we don’t celebrate the legend of Niclas Wallin enough. Without him, the “Molson Miracle” might not have happened, thus possibly wiping out the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
The legacy of other playoff performers is well-documented, like Cam Ward’s emergence in 2006 or Warren Foegele’s excellent 1st Round against Washington in 2019. Wallin is one of the franchise’s earliest examples that greatness can come from anywhere, especially in the postseason (see also Kevin Weekes in 2002).
He’ll never be remembered as the flashiest player, and he might not be the first defenseman you think of when it comes to the greatest in franchise history. However, Wallin’s legacy will forever be tied to some of the best moments, making him a legend in his own right.