Thursday, November 8, 2007

Five goaltenders record shutout wins on November 5th

While I'm not 100% sure if it is an NHL record, but this comes as a surprise in today's NHL were new rules were implemented after the lockout to inject more scoring around the league.

Five goaltenders recorded shutout wins on November 5th. You'd swear this was the pre-lockout NHL, right? Not exactly. But either way, given that not just one or two goalies kept their opponents completely off the scoreboard, but five did, it was worth a mention.

First, we start with New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Having been a Vezina Trophy finalist in each of his first two NHL seasons, he hasn't disappointed so far in the 2007-2008 season despite the team's slow start. In playing in all 14 games the Rangers played up to that point, he was still exceptionally sharp with 30 saves in a low-scoring 2-0 home win over the Philadelphia Flyers. It was already his 4th shutout of the season. What made this win more of a feat is that the Rangers had scored only 25 goals, an NHL-low. But in order to turn their season around, they completed season-longest six-game homestand where they went 5-1. In other words, Lundqvist has had next to no room for error in getting important wins for the Rangers. He was the primary reason they won besides a sound defensive gameplan against the Flyers.

About 10 miles to the southwest of Madison Square Garden, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins made their debut at Prudential Center a very successful one. Backup goaltender Dany Sabourin made 20 saves and Crosby scored twice in a 5-0 rout of the New Jersey Devils. Even ex-Devil Petr Sykora scored a goal against his one-time team. He was a part of the Devils' 1995 and 2000 Stanley Cup championship teams. Why do I also mention Sykora? The Penguins had blown two-goal leads in each of their previous two games and lost. His goal put Pittsburgh up 3-0 with 14:12 in the second period and the Devils barely challenged the rest of the game.

Remember who was the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy award winner? Cam Ward played the kind of game reminiscent of the Carolina Hurricanes' successful Stanley Cup playoff run where he was sound between the pipes and made the big save at the best possible time. On this night, Ward stopped all 35 shots he faced in a 5-0 win over the Washington Capitals at RBC Center. It would be the third shutout of his young career. Ward should treat Cory Stillman to dinner. Why? Stillman recorded a natural hat trick in the opening 11:28 of the game to give Carolina a big boost and send them on their way to victory.

Next, we turn our attention to goaltender who resurrected his career with a tremendous second half to last season despite falling just short of a playoff berth on the final day. Cristobal Huet had surplanted Jose Theodore as the regular starting goalie and enabled the Montréal Canadiens to trade Theodore to the Colorado Avalanche for David Aebischer. On this night, Huet stopped 29 shots (16 in the first period) to help the Canadiens to a 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. It was his 14th NHL shutout and the first since November 28, 2006. Montréal needed his heroics because they were outshot 9-2 in the third period and hardly tested Ryan Miller on the other end of the ice.

After losing their previous three games on home ice, Marty Turco played like he has on a number of occasions in the past to get the Dallas Stars back in the win column. Turco made 19 saves to record his 31st NHL shutout in a 5-0 blowout road win over the Anaheim Ducks. Jere Lehtinen and Mike Ribeiro both gave Turco the cushion he needed as each had a goal and two assists. The Stars have won both meetings with the defending Stanley Cup champions and this one was decided by their special teams performance with two power play goals and killing off all four Anaheim power plays.

Outside of Lundqvist, the other four goalies on this night recorded their first shutouts of the season. Is this a sign of things to come? I wouldn't count on five goalies getting shutout wins on the same day anytime soon, but it only reemphasizes the importance of skill and patience on the part of the opposition to score a goal against the best goalies the NHL has to offer.

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