Takin' a T/O With BT: Is Brian Boucher Bouncing Back Into the Saddle?

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Takin' a T/O With BT: Is Brian Boucher Bouncing Back Into the Saddle?

So often, we talk about the NHL goaltending greats.

When you mention the interlaced twine and the red-laden iron pipes, you associate names like Patrick Roy, Grant Fuhr, Martin Brodeur, Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, and Mike Vernon with some of the most memorable moments in the history of the position.

But there's one player who'll never have his name mentioned among the best to ever play the game—he'd be lucky to have his name mentioned among some of the more mediocre starters of all-time.

But while each of those goalies holds a special place in history, so does this man, who's a mere afterthought in today's NHL.

While it happened only a few years ago, only a few people really remember the record and the player.

In the NHL version of Trivial Pursuit the question would read:

During the 2003-04 NHL season, this man set the record for shutouts in a row by an NHL goaltender. Who is he?

The answer? Brian Boucher.

The former Philadelphia Flyer, Phoenix Coyote, Calgary Flame, Columbus Blue Jacket, Chicago Blackhawk, and current San Jose Shark holds the record for consecutive games with a shutout with five, and early on this season he looks to have found that old form.

The former Flyers' draft pick came in with a bang during the 1999-2000 season, winning 20 games for the Flyers and posting a goals-against average below 2.00 (1.91).

The upstart rookie then led the Flyers into the playoffs, coming within an inch (or a win) of the Stanley Cup Finals, losing out in a duel to Brodeur, and seemingly setting the stage for an Atlantic Division rivalry between two French-Canadian goaltenders.

As the calender turned however, Boucher became saddled with struggles. He stumbled through the 2000-01 season, and spent some time sitting behind Roman Cechmanek on the depth chart the next few seasons.

The struggles led to a June 2002 trade to the Phoenix Coyotes, and people wondered if this would be what Boucher would need to turn it around.

Boucher's initial season in the desert led to further struggles—he was weighted down with a high GAA (3.02), a .894 save percentage, and an underwhelming 15-20 record, as he saw a majority of time ahead of the veteran Sean Burke.

The Coyotes did little to amend the situation heading into the next season. Both Burke and Boucher were back, with only Zac Bierk and Jean-Marc Pelletier for competition.

Burke opened the season as the starting goalie in the desert, and through the first two months, Boucher saw action in only four games (three starts) going 0-2-1. (For those of you scoring at home, remember this is pre-lockout.)

Once December hit, Boucher started to grab some points for the Coyotes. He won his first game of the month, 3-2 against the Buffalo Sabres, and then posted three straight ties against the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings (remember this team), and the Nashville Predators.

Then, on New Years Eve, Boucher was set to face the Los Angeles Kings and as the clock ticked down to 00:00 in the third period and up to 12:00 everywhere else, Boucher did something he hadn't done since Halloween of 2002-03.

He shut someone out.

While some thought it was just luck of the clock, it began to turn into something much more than that.

On January 2, the Coyotes provided him with six goals—the most they'd ever scored in a game for him—and in turn Boucher got his teammates a second shutout. Two nights later? Much of the same with a 3-0 shutout over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Remember the Washington Capitals pre-Alexander Ovechkin? Neither does Alan Bass, but I'm sure Brian Boucher does—especially seeing as he posted a his fourth-straight shutout over the Caps, the third straight at home.

Then, on January 9, the quintilla was complete, as Boucher shut the door on the Minnesota Wild, 2-0.

Going into his next game against the Atlanta Thrashers, many thought that this was Boucher's best shot at going six-for-six—but we found out early on it wasn't to be.

6:16 into the first period, Randy Robitaille from Slava Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk on the power play. 1-0 Thrashers, streak over.

The kicker? Boucher made 20 of a possible 21 saves, resulting in a 1-1 tie once all was said and done. (For those scoring at home, pre-lockout means no shootout. Apparently ties are "boring.")

So how about this for some math—five conescutive games with a shutout for Boucher. The streak started at 19:15 of the second period against Nashville, and went until 6:16 of the first against Atlanta. That means that he didn't allow a goal for 331 minutes and 31 seconds, and stopped 130 shots in the process.

Sidenote: For those of you who believe in coincidental numbers, Boucher's streak started on the 31st of December, and his current jersey number (I don't know about during his Phoenix tenure) is 33. His last shutout was (as we already found out) October 31, 2001. The most wins he's ever recorded in a season? 33 in the WHL. He was also born on January 2, 1977, the same date he got his second shutout in 2004.

Forget I mentioned this...they're too many stupid coincidences with numbers bogging down this world already.

Despite his hot streak though, Boucher would go right back to struggling one he allowed that goal to the Thrashers: He would go 4-14-5-3 for the rest of the season, and he only ever allowed two or fewer goals in a win or tie.

The lockout came and went the following year, and that seemed to spell the end of Boucher's time in Phoenix. Following a midseason trade to the Flames, Boucher played a total of 21 games for Calgary, Chicago, and Columbus.

After a bit of time spent with the Phildelphia Phantoms of the AHL, Boucher was traded to the San Jose Sharks midway through last year—and he's yet again found an NHL home, signing a one-year deal with the Sharks in June.

And wouldn't you know it, Boucher's started the season with two straight shutouts over the Los Angeles Kings and the Tampa Bay Lighting.

Talk about coincidences, eh?

And speaking of coincidences: remember how Boucher's last shutout before his streak was on October 31, 2001? His shutout before that one was October 30—the precise day before....

And the Sharks do play tomorrow night...

Nah.  Todd McLellan wouldn't have read this OR believe in coincidences—right?

I guess we'll find out, won't we?

 

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report and an NHL Community Leader. You can get in contact with BT through his profile and you can also read all of his previous work in his archives.

Despite linking to it earlier in the article in a negative context, BT actually liked The Number 23.

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