Heir to the throne

Wednesday, 16.08.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
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Heir to the throne
Huet carries on Canadiens goaltending tradition

Cristobal Huet recorded seven shutouts in 36 games in 2005-06, just three shy of the Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff, who led the league with 10 in 74 games.

MONTREAL - Cristobal Huet's improbable rise to stardom in 2005-06 may have surprised many, but when you consider that he earns a living by protecting the most celebrated crease in the NHL, we all should have seen it coming.

As if recovering from a serious knee injury suffered during the lockout wasn't enough, Huet not only returned to action fit enough to play, he also managed to emerge as one of the league's top netminders despite playing in only 36 games.

The French-born goalie went on a tear that saw him register an amazing seven shutouts over a 20-game span on his way to posting the league's top save percentage. By narrowly edging out Dominik Hasek with a stingy .929 mark, Huet won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award, and climbed into second place on Montreal's all-time list, behind Jose Theodore, who posted a team record .931 percentage to earn the award in 2001-02.

Huet's coming out party also included a magical weekend that proved to be super in more ways than one. Thanks in large part to his back-to-back shutouts on Super Bowl weekend on Feb. 4 and 5, Huet strung together a 173:17 shutout streak, the longest such stretch by a Habs goalie in over 15 years, dating back to Patrick Roy's 168:47 run of perfection in 1989-90.

The Montreal crease has also proven to be the adoptive home of the coveted Vezina Trophy since it was first awarded to Canadiens legend George Hainsworth in 1927-28. In fact, a Habs goalie has earned the honor an incredible 28 times, almost triple the number of their next closest rival the Blackhawks who boast 10 Vezina winners.

While Huet's spectacular first season in Montreal is certainly nothing to sneeze at, the record books show that his dominance was simply business as usual between the pipes in Montreal. No other team even comes close to the parade of top-flight goaltenders to have called the Canadiens' crease their home over the years, including five already in the Hockey Hall of Fame who are now awaiting Roy to join them in November.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com