LeNeveu Finds Shutout Magic

David LeNeveu

David LeNeveu

The Wolf Pack had not had a shutout in over a year going into this past weekend’s home-and-home with Bridgeport, and now they have two in a row, both by a goaltender who had played all of about 70 minutes in the ten games preceding Saturday’s home contest.

David LeNeveu had never put up consecutive zeros before in his AHL career, and the 11th-year pro had been all but a forgotten man the last three weeks, but he stepped up huge when Dov Grumet-Morris was lost to an injury suffered in Friday’s desultory 6-1 home loss to Springfield.

Friday was Grumet-Morris’ seventh straight start, and ninth in ten games, and LeNeveu’s Wolf Pack goals-against average and save percentage were a rather unsightly 3.42 and 87.2, respectively, going into Saturday’s game, but LeNeveu prevented the depleted Sound Tigers from ever getting even a breath of life throughout 120 unblemished minutes.

Bridgeport didn’t make him work all that hard Saturday night, putting only 22 shots on net the entire night, and a total of only ten through the first two periods.  If you didn’t see the game, to give you an idea of how good a team win it was, LeNeveu was only the Third Star, which should tell you all you need to know.  Sunday’s road game was a much bigger test, though, with it being a 3:00 game and the Wolf Pack playing their third game in three days and Bridgeport having had Friday off.  The Pack seemed to be running on fumes by the third period, in which the Sound Tigers outshot the visitors 11-5, but LeNeveu’s confidence was clearly off the charts by then, and it certainly didn’t seem a surprise when he finished off the second consecutive blanking.

I said up above that it had been more than a year since the Pack’s last shutout, and that’s true, by a matter of one day.  The last bagel tossed by a then-Connecticut Whale goalie was March 28 of last season, when Cam Talbot hung a zero on Worcester, making 29 saves in a 3-0 home victory.  Speaking of Talbot and shutouts, he kept the theme going in Edmonton Sunday evening, backstopping the parent Rangers to a 5-0 win over the Oilers with 26 saves, after Henrik Lundqvist had started eight straight and 14 out of 15.

Action Shot for Blog - 03-31-14 - Talbot

Cam Talbot (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

That makes it three shutouts in 18 NHL starts for Talbot, and I know it’s only a small sample, but a 94 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against in 20 appearances?  Wow.

Talbot also had the Wolf Pack/Whale’s last back-to-back shutouts, those coming in the first two games of the 2012 first-round playoff series against Bridgeport.  To find the last consecutive regular-season shutouts, though, you have to go all the way back to November of 2009.  That’s when rookie Chad Johnson (remember him?) blanked Manchester 2-0 (26 saves) on the 13th at home and then beat Worcester 4-0 on the road the next night, making 35 saves.

It’s now nine times in franchise history that the team has had back-to-back shutouts, and there’s never been a streak of three in a row.  In case you’re wondering, the Pack has been shut out in consecutive games six times in its nearly 17 full years.

The two victories over the Sound Tigers allowed the Wolf Pack to move four points closer to a playoff spot–they’re now ten points out of eighth with eight more to play.  Something else for the team to hang its hat on is the fact that the season record is now to within one game of the .500 mark, 30-31-1-6 for 67 points.  The last time the Pack’s mark was as high as one game below .500 was, incredibly, November 30, 46 games ago, when they were 9-10-0-2 and had fallen below the even mark for the first time on the year.  Seems like an awfully long time ago, don’t it?

 

 

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