Nobody could have blamed Troy Grosenick if he'd folded. Making his NHL debut last night in Carolina, the undrafted 25-year-old goaltender out of Union College was all but abandoned by his San Jose teammates who offered up perhaps their worst performance of the season. Instead, he made 45 stops to lead the Sharks to a 2-0 win over the Hurricanes and in the process set a new NHL record for most saves in an NHL-debut shutout.
“I didn't feel like it was too terribly tough of a game,” said Grosenick, who'd obviously forgotten several acrobatic stops he'd made, including a beauty on Zach Boychuk in the second with San Jose clinging to a one-goal lead.
Grosenick was already in the midst of a pretty decent season going 7-2-1 through his first 10 appearances with AHL Worcester, but this was by far his finest performance as a pro. Was the record a sign that he could become a key member of the Sharks down the road?
Not necessarily. The previous mark was set on Dec 23, 1967 by Andre Gill, who stopped 41 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers. Gill, who was brought up when both Gerry Cheevers and Ed Johnston were sidelined by injuries, went on to play four more games for the B's before finishing out his career with two brief stints in the WHA and five more years in the minors.
And despite what we saw last night, Grosenick isn't highly regarded as a prospect. A scout contacted by SI.com on Monday morning raved about Grosenick's performance, but suggested that he's probably not the team's next great keeper. “He's looked better this year but he still has a few holes in his game,” the scout said via email. “That's not to say he can't [succeed at the NHL level] some day, but he's got a lot of work to do.”
Maybe the key to San Jose's future success isn't Grosenick, but trotting out a string of goalies to make their season debuts. So far this season, all three Sharks keepers have pitched shutouts in their first appearance. On opening night, Antti Niemi made 34 stops as San Jose spoiled the Kings' banner-raising party, 4-0. Three nights later, Alex Stalock made 30 saves as the Sharks knocked off the Jets, 3-0.
And now, this gem from Grosenick. It may not have been his first step toward the Hall of Fame, or even regular NHL employment, but it was one for the books all the same.
What to watch tonight
Lightning at Rangers (7 p.m. EST; TVA, SN1, SUN, MSG)
There's only one game on tap tonight but it sets up as a dandy with three former Rangers returning to New York for their first game back at MSG since heading south to Tampa. “We haven't talked too much about it, but I think there's a mutual understanding that if there's one game the three of us want to win, it's this one,” Anton Stralman told Newsday. “It's going to be exciting going in there.” Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan, the former captain of the Rangers, are the other two returnees. "I don't know [if I'll be cheered],” Callahan told Newsday. “It's a fickle place [but] it's a great crowd, great fans, and I'm excited to go back and play.” Martin St. Louis should also have some motivation coming into this one. The former Lightning captain owns the franchise marks for career assists (588) and points (953) and ranks second in goals (365) and games played (972). He's also just six points away from 1,000 for his career—he'll be looking to shrink that number against his former teammates.
What you missed over the weekend
• The great Gordie Howe's health has take a turn for the worse, according to his son, Mark.
• The Wild let defenseman Marco Scandella play against the Jets on Sunday night despite his brush with the mumps. Zach Parise also returned for Minnesota in impressive style.
• Milwaukee Admirals VP Mike Wojciechowski got a very public prostate exam for a very good reason at the team's game on Sunday.
The numbers game
• Only three U.S.-born goaltenders have ever posted a shutout in their first NHL game: Troy Grosenick of the Sharks (11/16/14), John Gibson of the Ducks (4/7/14), and Al Montoya of the Coyotes (4/1/09). They are also the last three from any country to achieve the feat.
• The Canadiens are on a six-game winning streak, with their last five victories by margins of three goals or more. It's the first time since October/November of 1991 that the Habs have rattled off such a string.
• Brad Richards of the Blackhawks is now the 22nd active player to skate in 1,000 NHL games.
• One of the nation’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey programs had the ice pulled out from under it last week. Now, Ice Hockey in Harlem needs your help.
• There's so much to love about this. The respect. The handmade sign. The pre-2005 NHL logo. And Evgeni Malkin riding a tiger.
• Why did the Windsor Spitfires trade their most talented player, New York Islanders first rounder Josh Ho-Sang? “We want our team to go in a certain direction,” Windsor coach Bob Boughner said. “We want to create that strong culture that we had in the past. This deal allows us to do that.” Yikes.
• Gary Bettman isn't looking for a chance to say "I told you so." But we should let him have one just the same.
• You might not know Brian Daccord's name but he's changing the way the game is being played.