Martin Biron: The New York Rangers Backup Plan
Henrik Lundqvist may be known as “The King” on Broadway, but even kings need a support system. While Lundqvist gets all the glory and often has much of the 18,200 in attendance at Madison Square Garden chanting his name, much of Henrik’s success can be attributed to Martin Biron, the Rangers veteran backup who provided Head Coach John Tortorella the opportunity to give his bread and butter much needed rest throughout the grueling 82 game schedule last season. While Lundqvist has never complained about physical fatigue, it’s probably no coincidence that a well rested Lundqvist had his best (and arguably most consistent) season to date during his Vezina winning 2011-2012 campaign.
Henrik Lundqvist was sharper than he’s ever been during the New York Rangers run to the Eastern Conference Finals that saw the team narrowly surviving 7-game sets against the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals, escaping with victories by the skin of their teeth. Despite being the #1 seed and the heavy favorite, if it weren’t for Henrik’s spectacular ability to stand on his head and and come through in the clutch, the Rangers might’ve been hitting the links way before their third round exit to the New Jersey Devils last Spring.
While a relentless shot-blocking defense led by Dan Girardi and a complete team commitment to back-checking and battling in their own end benefits Lundqvist on many nights, having an experienced, veteran netminder like Marty Biron may be the biggest reason for Lundqvist’s season long heroics. Biron signed a two year deal with the Broadway Blueshirts two years ago during the free agency season. He didn’t migrate very far.
He spent the previous season with the divisional rival New York Islanders, losing a chance at a starting position to Dwayne Roloson. This is why bringing Biron onto Broadway was such a question mark. Rangers fans have an unfair tendency to lash out at any goaltender taking center stage who’s not named Henrik Lundqvist. It’s happened to Kevin Weekes, Stephen Valliquette and even prospect Chad Johnson. I
t’s certainly happened to Biron too, especially late last season as the veteran appeared to be mired in a second half slump. Biron went 12-6-2 with a 2.46 GAA and a .904 Save Perecentage, hardly what you’d call setting the world on fire. But despite his somewhat modest numbers, Biron gave the Rangers consistency between the pipes when the coaching staff believed Henrik could use a rest.
The 21 games played by Marty Biron is the most played by any Rangers backup goaltender since Kevin Weekes started 32 games for the Rangers during Lundqvist’s rookie year (2005-2006). Tortorella’s plan to work Biron into action was working incredibly well during Marty’s first season with the club, but a broken collar bone forced Biron out of action and Henrik Lundqvist had to once again assume the position of the lonely workhorse.
Lundqvist was limited to just 62 games during the Rangers dominant regular season run this past year and with any luck at all, after signing another two year deal to stay behind Lundqvist this past Summer, the Rangers backup, coaching staff and a little bit of rest should be more than enough to bring out the best in the perennial Vezina favorite yet again.