FANFARE: AND IN NET, MARTY BIRON

220xBY: Adam Gavriel

Before the start of the off-season in 2010, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella and the Blueshirts’ management were seeking answers to the questions regarding the mystery surrounding why the the team had failed to win Lord Stanley’s Cup since 1994. Their analysis led them to take a look around the league and discovered a trend adopted by all Stanley Cup champions for the past several years prior.

The Red Wings had won the cup in 2007-2008 using a 1A, 1B goalie system. In the net were Chris Osgood and Dominick Hasek; with neither playing more than 43 games.

The 2009 Penguins championship team, backstopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, had their franchise netminder in net just 62 times that season.

The 2010 cup champion Blackhawks split the time with Cristobal Huet leading the way over Antti Niemi 48 to 39. Those were the numbers that Rangers’ management were looking at heading into the free agent signing period of 2010. The decision was made to pursue a credible backup goalie for Henrik Lundqvist. The netminder they targeted, Martin Biron.

Biron was coming off a lackluster season with the Islanders where he even played a couple of games with the Bridgeport  Sound Tigers in the AHL. Safe to say, he won’t be doing that again any time soon.

The Lac-Saint-Charles, Quebec native’s abilities, not only on the ice, but in the locker room, as a cheerleader during games and by helping his teammates prepare for their shootout attempts…all of that has made him an indispensible member of the New York Rangers. In fact you could make the case that Biron is among the elite backups in the National Hockey League. On any number of NHL teams, the 6’3”, 170-pounder would be a more than capable starting netminder.

The Rangers coaching staff is more than confident they will only have to start Lundqvist 60-65 times this season with the goal of keep the Swede fresh for the upcoming grueling playoff schedule. At the pace that Biron is playing, Lundqvist will start about 60 –62 games which would be his lowest total since his rookie season where he played only 53. During his time on Broadway, Lundqvist has started 53, 70, 72, 70, 73, and 68 games respectively. King Henrik’s  numbers are likely to be career highs.

Even with Lundqvist’s stellar numbers, Biron’s are no less amazing. Sporting an 8-2-0 record with a 2.06 GAA and .922 save percentage. Those are serious numbers. Those numbers carried through a full season would get Biron Vezina Trophy consideration. Biron adds the element of having a more than capable backup to your already legendary starter; should Lundqvist falter, Biron will be there to pick up the slack.

Last season a Derek Stepan wrist-shot in practice broke Biron’s collar bone and limited his appearances to 25 games leaving the other 57 for Lundqvist. After his last game on February 7th 2010 the whole goaltending load was left on The King while the Rangers desperately tried to make the playoffs. Lundqvist played in all of the Rangers’ remaining 25 games. After Biron’s last start with the Rangers, they sat in 7th place in the Eastern Conference. But by the time the season came to an end it took a win over New Jersey and a Hurricanes loss to Tampa Bay to clinch the remaining 8th spot in the East for the playoffs. On February 7th the Rangers had a 29-23-4 record, they finished, post Biron injury, with Lundqvist leading them to a 15-10-1 record the rest of the way. In the opening series of the playoffs against the Capitals, Lundqvist’s fatigue set in and it then that Biron’s absence was truly felt as the Rangers went on to lose the series in five games.

Now nearly halfway through the 2011-2012 season if it’s possible, the Rangers commitment to Biron may have even grown. By this date last year Biron had appeared in eleven games and would appear is seventeen overall. In 2011-2012, with the team still on the short side of the first half of the season, Biron has already appeared in eleven.

Whatever formula goaltender coach Benoit Allaire and Tortorella have come up with in how and when to use Biron is paying dividends who sit atop the entire NHL with the league’s best record.

With the “Dynamic Duo” of Lundqvist and Biron doing their best impression of Batman and Robin protecting the Rangers’ net, this could be the year that Gotham City hosts another parade down the Hall of Heroes.

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One response to “FANFARE: AND IN NET, MARTY BIRON

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