The way things are going in St. Louis, Ty Conklin might get to experience a little more heartache.
The Blues are off to a fantastic start, thanks largely to the play of stingy Slovak Jaroslav Halak in goal. But even on those rare occasions when Halak is parked at the end of the bench, St. Louis is getting top-notch rubber rejection.
And that’s exactly what Conklin was expected to provide on an intermittent basis when he was brought on board in the summer of 2009.
“Ty Conklin might be the ultimate backup goalie,” said Darren Pang, a former NHL puckstopper who covers the Blues as an analyst for Fox Sports. “I’ve never seen a goalie stay on the bench for three, four weeks, shake off the rust and get into a game and not just win a game or compete in a game, he’s regularly the first star.”
Conklin has seen action in two games this season, blanking the Rangers 2-0 last Sunday after losing a 3-2 shootout to the Stars Oct. 16. Last year he posted a .921 save percentage in 26 games for a middling Blues team; the season before he had a .909 mark in 40 games with Detroit, right after recording a .923 save percentage in 33 games with Pittsburgh.
Conklin, now 34, famously followed Marian Hossa down the cruel path of Cup disappointment, losing consecutive finals with the Penguins and Wings. He then followed Hossa to the Central Division, but landed with the Blues, while Hossa finally found salvation in Chicago.
Conklin also had a rough go in the 2006 final, relieving an injured Dwayne Roloson late in Game 1 after the Oilers starter and savoir was hurt. Conklin played just six minutes and a communication breakdown with Jason Smith in the last minute led to a game-winner from Rod Brind’Amour. Conklin didn’t see the crease again as Carolina won in seven.
But if there’s one man with the mental resiliency to overcome three disheartening final showings in five years, it’s the Alaska native who definitely displays a frontier spirit.
“He flies his own jets, he bikes to the rink sometimes,” Pang said. “He’s a man who has some independent characteristics about him.
“He’s the last guy off the ice. He has competitions with every player on the ice. He yells at them, chirps at them, shoots pucks at them, they chirp at him, but at the end of the day it’s just because he’s got such competitive drive to him.”
All that should come in handy again this year because, even though Halak has picked right up where he left off in Montreal, he’s still never seen more than 45 games in a season and will certainly need to be spelled from time to time to stay fresh.
That’s when Mr. Focus comes in.
“They’re paying him $1.3 million to be a backup goalie and I’ll say he’s worth every penny,” Pang said.
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