The upper hand

Tuesday, 17.03.2009 / 6:00 AM / News
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The upper hand
MONTREAL – Forty. The big 4-0. A number that might lead to sleepless nights for many…unless you’re an NHL goaltender.

When the lockout ended and hockey returned in 2005-06, the NHL wanted to open up the game - have goalies face more rubber and perhaps have a few more get by them. While that was the wish, the pair don’t always go hand in hand. The league’s masked men have proven that the busier they are, the better they are.

40 shots, then what?
Here are the combined records - by season - of teams that have given up 40 or more shots in a game.

Seasons Record
1997-98 31-31-19
1998-99 44-46-25
1999-2000 26-28-24-12
2000-01 34-39-19-10
2001-02 39-54-31-10
2002-03 53-44-31-10
2003-04 48-44-34-13
2005-06 96-86-41
2006-07 87-54-34
2007-08 78-57-28
2008-09 74-71-36
Ever since the puck dropped on the 2008-09 campaign back in October, goalies have faced at least 40 shots in a game 181 times.  Down in Florida, shots on goal are as commonplace as sun and sand; Panthers netminders hold top honors as the busiest guys in the league, facing at least 40 shots on 16 occasions.  And while Canadiens stoppers have been tested quite often lately, the club itself ranks eighth in the league in that category. Saturday night’s 48-shot barrage directed by the Devils at Jaroslav Halak marked just the eighth time this season that a Habs’ opponent had surpassed 40 shots on goal.

Though it might seem like the odds would be in favor of a victory with so many pucks headed towards the net, don’t go betting on it.  Goalies on the receiving end have been far from eager to surrender in such circumstances, compiling a 74-71-36 record. The Canadiens are 3-5 in those outings, with Halak earning all three wins to rank sixth in the NHL in that department.

Much to the dismay of those who like to fill the opposing net, they’ve had a tough mountain to climb over the past six seasons, courtesy of the men donning the masks.  As the saying goes, after all, it’s quality over quantity.

Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com

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