For the most part, there’s generally a collective groan let out by Rangers fans whenever Glen Sather announces that he’s signed a veteran free agent over the off-season. However, one of Sather’s wily veterans that he’s added to the mix on Broadway has resulted in neither groans nor jeers, but rather applaud and chants.
For years, the chant of “Mar-ty,” was solely used to heckle a certain goaltender across the Hudson from the Garden Faithful. For the past two seasons, however, that chant has been directed at another netminder: Marty Biron.
Biron, who was signed to a two-year, $1.75 million contract by Sather in the summer of 2010, could possibly pay the most dividends of any free agent to come to New York in recent memory.
Now, before you think I’m crazy–considering names like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards have been reeled in by Sather in recent years–for what the Rangers are paying Biron, it’s hard to argue against his value to the team.
Since coming to New York, well, to New York City that is, Biron has been nothing short of amazing in relief of Henrik Lundqvist. Through 20 games, Biron has posted an 11-6 record, with a 1.93 GAA.
Having Biron play as well as he has is beneficial not only for the present game, but, for the grueling months down the playoff stretch.
If you look at recent teams that have gone deep into the playoffs over the last several years, one common occurrence is red-hot, yet, well-rested goaltender. The Bruins had Tim Thomas (57 GP), while Chicago took advantage of Antti Niemi’s fiery finish (39 GP) the season before.
Keeping Lundqvist fresh for the stretch is as, if not more, important to the Rangers’ postseason success as their power play production, Marian Gaborik finding chemistry with a centerman, or as Marc Staal returning to 100-percent health.
Had Biron not suffered a freak injury in practice last season, Lundqvist wouldn’t have had to play the final 26 games of the regular season and all five games in the first round of the playoffs.
It was no secret, by the time Washington’s high-powered offense came to town for the opening round of the playoffs, Lundqvist was physically and mentally gassed from the brutal, scratch-and-claw road to the postseason over the final two months of the season.
Not since Lundqvist wrestled the starting gig away from Kevin Weekes in his rookie season, have the Rangers had a reliable backup.
Since Weekes left the Rangers following the 2006-07 season, the Rangers have had to rely on Lundqvist for nearly every start.
Prior to Biron coming into the fold last season, Lundqvist was responsible for 110 of the Rangers’ 123 wins since 2007.
If the Rangers plan on making any sort of run into the playoffs, Lundqvist being healthy, both physically and mentally, will have to be the team’s No. 1 priority.
The days of allowing Lundqvist to start 70-plus games a season and expect him to grind out an exceptional playoff run are long gone. Not with the workload the Rangers allow their goaltenders to face on a nightly basis.
Thus far this season, Biron has picked up right where he left off before breaking his collarbone last February. After Sunday night’s 3-0 shutout over the Winnipeg Jets, Biron has posted a 3-0 record on the season, allowing only three goals while facing 80 shots.
It’s the numbers like that, which will allow head coach John Tortorella to throw Biron between the pipes 20 times this season with full confidence.