Cam Talbot has three wins this season.
Not the most impressive stat, sure. So let’s clarify: Cam Talbot has three shutouts this season.
That’s as many shutouts as Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne, and more than Carey Price, Antti Niemi, and Tuukka Rask, to name a few. In fact, only Marc-Andre Fleury (6) and teammate Henrik Lundqvist (5) currently have more shutouts than Talbot does.
Not bad for a goaltender who’s only started seven games (3-3-1) so far this year.
As the backup goalie for Lundqvist, Talbot does not see as much playing time as he probably deserves. But despite the limited ice time, he has displayed a level of comfort and skill in the net that the rest of the New York Rangers can’t help but notice.
“[Talbot] has been great for us, last year and this year, and he’s been really solid for us,” said Dan Girardi, who played in his 600th career game on Sunday. “Our goaltending tandem is pretty solid right now.”
Fortunately for the Rangers, this goaltending tandem will remain solid for at least another season. Talbot, who currently has a .928 SV% and a 2.02 GAA, signed a one-year, $1.45 million extension with the Rangers on Friday. He said that he is “extremely excited” to be staying in New York through the 2015-16 season and to continue working with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, as well as with Lundqvist.
Though Talbot would have become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, the Rangers organization reportedly had hoped to come to a multi-year agreement with him before then. However, at 27 years old, Talbot wants to keep his options open for future seasons. In his second season as Lundqvist’s backup, he has proven that he has the talent to be a number one, starting goaltender at this level; signing a multi-season contract at this stage could narrow this window of opportunity for him.
“He did want the one-year security,” said his agent, George Bazos. “Part of the issue was, at times the Rangers wanted more years. From our standpoint and from his standpoint, he does want to become a number one goalie, and that’s why we didn’t want to tie up more than one year.”
Talbot earned his third shutout of the season on Sunday night, making 18 saves as the Rangers (17-10-4) defeated the Carolina Hurricanes (9-20-4), 1-0, in the second half of a home-and-home set. Ryan McDonagh put in the only goal of the game four minutes into the first period, assisted by Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. But as the Rangers continued to dominate in terms of shots and offensive possession, the rest of the game proved to be a stalemate. They held onto their single-goal lead over three periods of play and limited the Hurricanes’ scoring chances with strong defensive play and hustle. And when the Hurricanes did manage to get a shot off, Talbot was there to stop it.
“I knew that [Carolina was] one of the hardest working teams in the league and they fight to get to those dirty areas, so I knew that if I left any rebounds laying around that they were going to be there to poke them in,” said Talbot, who attributed the shutout to the entire team’s defensive effort. “I just tried to stay positionally sound and tried to control the rebounds whenever I could, and whenever I left one there, the guys were there to clear them out for me.”
“Every shot that came in, [Talbot] swallowed, and for a defenseman that’s huge. He swallows those and there’s no rebounds laying around, and that makes our job a lot easier. He did that all night,” said Marc Staal.
This win is the sixth in a row for the Rangers, their longest winning streak since November 2011. With 38 points on the season, they now sit in third place–and in playoff position–within the Metropolitan Division. The Washington Capitals, who they will face on Tuesday, are right behind them in the division standings. These will be a huge two points for whoever comes out on top.
And as the Rangers look to extend their winning streak and retain their playoff spot, strong goaltending will undoubtedly remain a crucial part of their game.
“We’re no different than any team in the NHL. You can’t win if you don’t get goaltending,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “Hank’s playing the way we know he can, and when we use Cam, he’s giving us some real good performances.”