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InGoal Update: Lundqvist sets NHL record before injury scare

InGoal Update: Lundqvist sets NHL record before injury scare

… Plus Roloson demonstrates how to make a great save; Bryzgalov shares a trade secret to big saves before LaBarbera gets rusty redemption; Bobrovsky only says a word; and rookies rule in the March 19th update.

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist became the first NHL goalie to post 30 or more wins his first six seasons.

Henrik Lundqvist was already “The King” in New York.

Now the Rangers standout wears the National Hockey League crown for most 30-win seasons to start a career.

Lundqvist made 22 saves in Friday’s 6-3 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, improving to 30-24-4 this season and hitting the 30-win mark for the sixth straight season since coming over from his native Sweden, the longest ever such stretch to start a career.

Unfortunately the good news ended there. Lundqvist was bowled over in a crease collision by Benoit Pouliot with 3:39 left, taking a forearm to the head, but staying in to finish the game before undergoing lengthy treatment afterwards for a stiff neck.

“The tough part is I didn’t see him coming,” Lundqvist said. “I couldn’t get ready for it and my head was learning forward and the neck took a pretty hard hit. We checked everything and it looks good. I was always clear, and we checked the X-rays and that was good.”

Lundqvist said he hoped to be read for the next game Sunday, but it will depend on how much he can to move his head.

“The only thing will be to check how I can move and how much it hurts,” he said. “Hopefully I wake up tomorrow with no pain.”

The Rangers have their fingers crossed. With 10 games left, they only have a four points cushion on Carolina for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And with regular backup Martin Biron out with a broken collarbone, the next goalie on the Ranegrs depth chart is rookie Chad Johnson, who played his only five NHL games midway through last season.

Roloson makes save of the year candidate in loss to Canadiens

Years ago, Patrick Roy made a diving save with the paddle of his stick that was to become one of his many amazing highlights. Maybe it is because Dwayne Roloson, at age 41, has been around since the Roy era that he knew precisely how to make a spectacular repeat of that save against St. Patrick’s old team on Thursday night:

Bryzgalov channels his inner Roy after the great save, game

Speaking of Roy, who was known throughout his hockey career as the guy who could find a way to win when it really counted, he once tried to inspire his Quebec major junior team by saying: “It’s not because you are playing poorly that you can’t still win the game.”

Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov must have taken that advice to heart, as he turned in a dominating performance for his lacklustre teammates and shut down the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Thursday night, then offered up his own unique quote.

Despite being outshot 36-17 and facing 19 shots in the final period alone, Bryzgalov stood tall again for a surging Phoenix squad that has suddenly vaulted past teams like Calgary and Chicago, out of eighth and into fourth place in the Western Conference. Asked after about his seemingly easy stop on an Andrew Cogliano penalty shot (video below), the Francois Allaire-trained Bryzgalov replied with the phlegmatic sense of humour that is typical of his personality:

“I just closed my eyes and went in butterfly and the puck comes to me.”

Teammate Ray Whitney was a bit more explicit about why his team managed a win despite being badly outplayed by a young, hungry team out of the playoffs:

“Ilya Bryzgalov was good in net again but that has been the story the last month.”

Bryzgalov was good indeed. During a 5-0-1 streak, he allowed only six goals. It is the second time in a month he has gotten hot, after an eight-game win streak in February. No wonder pundits in Toronto are suggesting the Leafs bring Bryzgalov, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, in as an unrestricted free agent this summer. But perhaps the most impressive part of Bryzgalov this season is how well he’s played without rest. Thursday’s win was his 10th straight start, and 29th in the last 30 games, all of which had backup Jason LaBarbera feeling a lot of pressure to succeed when he finally got back in Friday against the Canucks.

Jason LaBarbera hasn't played much except for practice lately (InGoal Photo)

It was just LaBarbera’s third appearance in over two months (and one of those was an eight-minute relief stint), and his first start since Feb. 23, when he was torched for eight goals in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. LaBarbera responded with an often brilliant 46 save performance against the Canucks team that employed him as a backup for half a season two years ago.

“My last game was a joke. I got lit up,” LaBarbera told InGoal Magazine after. “When you have to sit on an eight-goal game like that it’s not easy. It’s been a tough couple of weeks just trying to stay confident and positive. I felt a lot of pressure tomight for sure. I just wanted to contribute something, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to do that lately.”

LaBarbera found out after Thursday’s win he’d play against the league-leading Canucks, and by getting his team a win despite being outshot 47-29 and pulling the Coyotes within a game of San Jose for first place in the Pacific division, hopes he’s earned back enough trust to give Bryzgalov more breaks down the stretch.

“You get that carrot dangled in front of you,” he said. “I just had to refocus and reset myself in my head and just go out and play.”

Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky, international man of mystery

Meanwhile, another Russian puckstopper has been impressing the gallery, but it certainly hasn’t been because he can make deadpan one-liners like Bryzgalov. In the never-ending saga of who will be the latest Flyers’ netminder “for years to come,” previously unheralded (and undrafted) Sergei Bobrovsky has put a lock on the starter’s job, in spite of some major language obstacles.

In our last update we posted comments from Habs’ goalie coach Pierre Groulx about how close his relationship with Carey Price had become over the last year, just from spending time together and talking. Imagine how that plays out in Philly, where goalie coach Jeff Reese often can’t transmit even the simplest of messages to his outstanding young rookie.

Much of their learning curve has focused on teaching Bobrovsky how and when to come out of his net and play the puck, something that most Russian goalies have little experience in. Just think about how crucial it is when guys like Brodeur or Turco intercept dump-ins, stop pucks rimmed around the boards and and make break-out passes to their forwards (though last night Turco ended up with a rather embarassing goal that was the result of a botched clearing pass). In this interview with Flyers beat reporter Chuck Gormley, teammate Sean O’Donnell talked about what an adventure it can be at times when the puck ends up behind the Flyers’ goal”

“From what I heard, he hadn’t come out of the net once over in Russia. I think any one of us, if we tried to pick up something new at this level, would have a bit of a learning curve … You and I talking like this it’s very easy to communicate. But when there’s 20,000 people in the building and there’s all that excitement and the ref is yelling one thing and you’re yelling another, and then you throw in the language barrier, that’s a lot to contend with.”

Pehaps the communication gap is what has led the team and media in Philly to simply call their oustanding new protege “Bob.” Even he seems to have taken it with good humour (it is painted across the chin of his mask), as witnessed by this holiday video with Steve Coates (Santa), the colour commentator for Flyers’ games (he gets a skipping rope as a gift because he loves to jump rope):

The year of the rookie

From one rookie phenom in Philly to another in Vancouver, the NHL seems to have a youth movement going on between the pipes.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford

Chicago's Corey Crawford is a serious Calder Trophy candidate as rookie of the year. (InGoal Photo)

Earlier this week we talked about Washington’s Braden Holtby (who was sent back to the AHL Saturday morning), Chicago’s Corey Crawford Toronto’s James Reimer and the Islanders’ Al Montoya, all of them rookies who are causing a stir in their respective cities. While Ingoal has already detailed Cory Schneider’s prowess as Roberto Luongo’s luxury backup (most recently in the March 13 update) Gordon McIntyre of the Vancouver Province pointed out, or rather lamented, that without a drastic increase in starts in the next three weeks, Schneider will not even be considered for the Calder Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie.

Officially he needs to play in at least 25 games, which is unlikely before the regular season ends (Roberto Luongo jokingly quipped “I don’t know what the plan is for the rest of the way, maybe I’ll pull myself from a couple of games,” but quickly added “Obviously, whether he gets there [to 25 games] or not, he’s very deserving.”

So while many of us may be raving about the amazing newcomers in the NHL burning up the net this year, perhaps some perspective is on order. For the record, here are the number of games played by the past five goalies to win rookie of the year honours (imagine that Tuukka Rask couldn’t even make the podium last year, finishing fourth in voting despite a sub 2.00 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and 45 games played for the Bruins!)

– Steve Mason, 2008-09, 61 games
– Andrew Raycroft 2003-04, 57 games
– Evgeni Nabokov 2000-01, 67 games
– Martin Brodeur 1993-94, 47 games
– Ed Belfour 1990-91, 74 games!

Jimmy Howard was second in voting last season after playing 63 games – and winning 37 with a .924 save percentage – which bodes well for Crawford, who also spent years waiting in the American Hockey League for his chance, though with 46 games played and a .915 save percentage with 11 games left in the season he may be in tough, despite taking over the Blackhawks’ starting job.

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