NEW YORK – Martin Biron flew so under the radar when he was signed by the Rangers in July, he shared an introductory press conference with Derek Boogaard.
He’s not flying under the radar anymore. He’s allowed two or fewer goals in six of his seven starts this season, winning five of those matches, including a tense and physical 2-1 battle against the fledgling Flames (8-11-1).
“I’m trying to make the best out of it, and everybody is doing the same,” Biron said after making 31 saves on 32 shots. “There’s guys playing different roles right now because of guys [being] hurt. That’s a sign of a team maturing, and we’re showing some good things.”
Last season’s Rangers team that missed the playoffs by one point did so without a backup goaltender. John Tortorella mixed and matched backup duties between Chad Johnson, Matt Zaba, Steve Valiquette, and eventually Alex Auld. Because of the dysfunction behind him, Henrik Lundqvist had to appear in 73 of his team’s 82 games, a workload that even Lundqvist admitted fatigued him.
“Marty’s a vet. He’s a great goalie,” Brian Boyle said after scoring his ninth goal of the season in the second period. “That’s your most important player, no matter who’s in the net. He’s been huge for us. Obviously when we get Hanky playing, he’s world class too. We’ve got a good thing going back there.”
“I’ve been feeling really good on the ice,” Biron said after his third consecutive appearance, and second straight start. “The guys have played really good in front of me. We keep track of scoring chances and shots and all of that, but they’ve been able to play really well, bailed me out at times.”
“The most important thing, it’s not just him playing games, he’s finding a way to win games,” Tortorella said. “I think that’s very important for a club that’s going to be fighting all year long to get in [to the playoffs]. So that’s really good. As far as with Hank is concerned, it gives Hank a couple of days here. It gives him a chance to be on the ice with [goaltending coach] Benoit [Allaire] and try to straighten himself out. Which he will.”
This season, Lundqvist has already sat seven times. He’s on pace to play only 56 times, a workload that will certainly keep him more fresh when the Rangers (12-9-1) need him to help carry them towards the playoffs in March and April.
“Fortunately for me, I’m getting some good games in, giving him a chance to get some rest and bounce back even stronger,” Biron said. “I know at some point this year he’ll get on a streak and play a lot of games. He’ll be the workhorse of this team, and we’re all going to be there singing his praises. That’s how he is, and that’s how this team is going to be successful.”
No, there’s certainly no goaltending controversy in New York. Far from it. Just a starting goaltender who needs his rest, and a backup capable of allowing him some. The way it should be.
Marc Staal flattened Matt Stajan halfway through the third period with a clean open-ice shoulder-to-head check. Stajan was very wobbly getting to the bench, but Staal and Tortorella both maintained the hit was clean.
“I bent my knees, my elbow didn’t come up, I stayed low, I felt most of it on my side more than anything else,” Staal said.
Calgary coach Brent Sutter didn’t talk to reporters after the game, but assistant coach Dave Lowry said he hadn’t seen a replay yet, nor did he have an update on Stajan’s status.
Dan Girardi scored the game-winning goal off a faceoff win from Derek Stepan on the power-play. Girardi is the ninth Rangers player to get credited with a game-winning-goal this season. Only Washington (10) has more players with game-winning-goals.