Poke-Checking Barry Brust Chasing Johnny Bower, History
Abbotsford Heat goalie Barry Brust has had plenty of time to think about making history.
It’s been 10 days since Brust posted his third-straight shutout, extending his shutout streak to 231 minutes and 41 seconds, and moved within one period – 18 minutes and 10 seconds to be exact – of passing Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower for the all-time American Hockey League shutout record, set way back in 1957.
Rather than getting a chance to extend his streak and chase history, Brust watched the next three games as the Heat hit the road for a five-game road trip, first watching Calgary Flames-contracted stopper Leland Irving play twice before fellow AHL-signed stopper Danny Taylor backstopped a 1-0 overtime win in Texas on Friday night. Brust is expected to finally get his net back either Saturday in San Antonio or Sunday in Houston, against his former Aeros team.
It’s all part of a three-goalie rotation that tops the AHL, one that saw Brust wait 12 days between the first and second shutout of this streak. But as much as the 29-year-old Manitoba native has been asked about his pursuit of Bower over the last 10 days, and as open as he has been to throwing around the word “shutout” while talking to a wide range of media over the last week, it’s safe to say he won’t be over-thinking things when the game puck finally drops.
“If you think, you stink,” Brust said recently.
Brust has done anything but in his return to the AHL after spending last year in Germany’s top league. In fact, Brust has only allowed one goal through four starts with the Heat, posting a perfect 4-0-0-0 record with a surreal 0.25 goals-against average and jaw-dropping .991 save percentage. The only thing keeping him from the top of the AHL goaltending statistics is a lack of starts – Taylor is tops with a .944 save percentage after an early season start streak pushed him to eight games played.
As for the possibility of replacing Bower in the record books, Brust sees some similarities to his sometimes aggressive style.
“From what I understand he invented the poke check or was a big user of the poke check and it’s something of a staple in my game too, so that’s pretty neat,” Brust said during an interview on Team 1040 sports talk radio station in Vancouver. “And I used to watch him all the time on Legends of Hockey – I got the box set for Christmas one year – so it’s been kinda cool.”
As for what he credits for the run, Brust joked he’s “had a strategically placed horseshoe,” while pointing out some recently struck posts and cross bars behind him. Brust also singled out a stingy defensive system that has also benefitted Taylor and Irving, and a penalty kill that easily tops the AHL at 93.8 per cent. Of course there may be one other factor that Brust himself has been loathe to talk about amid a flurry of questions about his “journeyman” status: This guy is a really good goalie.
Yes, he’s played for eight teams in four leagues since being drafted by Minnesota 73rd overall in 2002, including a couple of stints in the ECHL and spending last season in Germany’s DEL, where an eight-game suspension for a “poke check to the face” in his final game made a return difficult and paved the way for his return to the AHL. And yes, Brust’s only NHL experience, an 11-game stint in 2006-07 with the Kings, ended with a rather unremarkable .878 save percentage. But as Brust told reporters this week, he wasn’t ready yet for the NHL. And as he showed with a .925 save percentage while outplaying highly touted Ottawa Senators prospect Robin Lehner in Binghamton two seasons ago, Brust and his game have evolved and matured over the years.
Enough that going 10 or more days between shutout starts in a three-goalie rotation isn’t likely to phase him.
“We have respect for each other and each one of us has embraced it,” Brust said. “It helps having Jordan Sigalet as our goalie coach. I’ve worked with Jordan before – we’re both coaches for the ProFormance Goalie Schools in Burnaby – so that’s kind of been the base of everything, and he does a great job with us. It actually allows for more one-on-one work with Jordan. Say there are drills only shooting on one net, the other two will go work with Jordan quite extensively. We’ve ironed the kinks out and made it a well-oiled machine and we’ve got a good rotation going.”
Not to mention a historic shutout streak.
Barry Brust Photo Gallery by Clint Trahan, all rights reserved: