Cam Talbot is starting in net for the New York Rangers against the Winnipeg Jets Monday night, and it will mark the first time he has started back-to-back contests. It will also mark the first time since February of 2011 that starter Henrik Lundqvist has rode the bench for consecutive games.
Talbot's season started in Hartford, Conn., but everything changed for the career AHLer after Martin Biron announced his retirement. Since making his NHL debut, Talbot has posted an impressive 6-1-0 record with a 1.49 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
His last three wins include a 35-save performance against the Vancouver Canucks and shutouts against the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. While all this success is good and well for Talbot, how long will he be satisfied in his role as a backup? Although it may seem that a goaltending controversy is brewing, there isn't one yet.
Talbot is happy to be playing hockey at the NHL, let alone for one of the NHL's most prestigious franchises. The Rangers backup was considered a long shot to make the NHL at best, so anything accomplished from this point on will be seen as a success for Talbot.
The Caledonia, Ontario native is a product of the hockey hotbed that is the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He accomplished some great things while in Alabama, but he went undrafted. The Rangers decided to take a chance on him, and he has come a long way since 2011.
Although he is currently one of the NHL's hottest goalies, he should be content playing the sidekick role of Robin for the next few seasons. He has a small body of work to date, he has yet to play a team for a second time and he hasn't been in a situation where he has had to recover from a bad loss.
This is not a criticism of Talbot; it is a statement of fact. He has yet to go through the trials and tribulations that come with being a starting goaltender, and until Talbot goes through the aforementioned rigors of an NHL starting goaltender, he should remain satisfied as the Blueshirts backup.
Talbot is only 26 years old, and there is no chance that he usurps Gotham's Crease Crusader in Henrik Lundqvist.
Although back-to-back starts are uncommon for backups, especially when they are backing up one of the world's best netminders, Alain Vigneault dispelled any notions that Talbot was stealing Henrik's job.
Via Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record:
“Cam is playing extremely well right now,” Vigneault said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in his abilities and I just thought for the game tonight that was the right call. Henrik is definitely the No. 1 goaltender on this team, he’s proven that over the years. He’s one of the best if not the best in the NHL. For tonight’s game I feel that the best thing for us is to go with Cam."
Although there is more being made of the situation considering that Lundqvist is in a contract year, if anything, Talbot playing more games will be better for the Rangers. Bleacher Report's own NHL National Lead Writer Dave Lozo touched upon this subject, and it only reinforces the concept that Talbot should be content with his current role.
While the future of net in New York is unknown, a betting man would push his chips to the center betting on Lundqvist finishing his career with the Rangers. It is unknown at this point whether Talbot is the next big-name starting goaltender or he is Jim Carey of the 1995-96 Washington Capitals.
What is known is that Talbot is currently having the time of his life in one of the greatest cities in the world, and he is happy playing hockey at the NHL level.