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THN.com Blog: Poor between-the-pipes starts and surprising shutouts

Goaltender Martin Biron of the Philadelphia Flyers reacts as the Colorado Avalanche celebrate an Avalanche goal by Brett Clark. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Goaltender Martin Biron of the Philadelphia Flyers reacts as the Colorado Avalanche celebrate an Avalanche goal by Brett Clark. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Remember Martin Biron's coming-out party in the playoffs last spring? The Flyers goaltender made his long overdue NHL post-season debut and led Philadelphia past Washington and Montreal in the first two playoff rounds before falling to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference final.

Biron, finally seeing action in the Stanley Cup marathon at age 30, was solid against the Capitals and then was the difference against the Canadiens – put Biron in the Habs goal and Carey Price in the Flyers net and Montreal wins that series.

But it hasn't quite been the same in the early going of 2008-09. Biron surrendered 13 goals in his first three outings and was winless with a 5.75 goals-against average and .824 save percentage. Looks like he's not going to shake his slow-starting reputation this season.

In Anaheim, Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere was enduring his own Biron-esque start to the season. Giguere, who has emerged the past few seasons as a top-flight NHL goalie, also gave up 13 goals in his first three games, all losses, and had a less-than-sparkling .851 save percentage. The 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and 2007 Stanley Cup champion got on track with a 4-0 shutout of San Jose on Friday night.

In other (premature) goalie news:

• Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen is facing nearly 35 shots a game through five contests. Even with a .919 save percentage, his 2-2-1 record reflects the fact he needs more help in front of him.

• So, when is Joey MacDonald going to get his 15-year deal from the Islanders? The backup netminder played four straight games for Long Island to open the season as the team took a cautious approach to Rick DiPietro's perpetual lower-body troubles.

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• Martin Brodeur's blanking of Atlanta Thursday gives the Devils goalie 97 shutouts, putting him within six of Terry Sawchuk's all-time record of 103. Roberto Luongo has his first white wash of the year, too, while a couple of lower-profile stoppers are, at least temporarily, tied with Brodeur and Luongo: the Rangers' Stephen Valiquette blanked the Maple Leafs Friday night (the little-used Blueshirts goalie shut out Toronto last season, too) and San Jose's Brian Boucher denied Los Angeles last Sunday. Brodeur, Valiquette and Boucher all won by 1-0 scores.

• Among starting goalies, Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom and Buffalo's Ryan Miller have been the sharpest in the opening days of the regular season. Miller's .945 save percentage is a fraction ahead of Backstrom (.942). At the other end, Dallas's Marty Turco and his .814 save percentage might be wishing it was still pre-season.

 

Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend.

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