Tuesday, 4 March 2008

A Win Is "Garon-Teed"

If you're having a little trouble identifying the goalie to the left, let me help you out with a few clues. He was drafted 44th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. He has played for the Montreal Canadiens, the Los Angeles Kings, and, as pictured, with the Edmonton Oilers. He was part of the deal that brought Cristobal Huet to Montreal. Hopefully, you've guessed that the player to the left is Mathieu Garon. Garon has supplanted Dwayne Roloson in between the pipes in the City of Champions, and set an NHL record along the way for wins in the shootout. However, he hasn't just been good, but the guy has been lights-out in the shootout.

To give you an idea, Garon bounced between the NHL and AHL, playing for the Fredericton Canadiens, the Quebec Citadelles, and the Hamilton Bulldogs in Montreal's minor-league system. Up to the 2005-06 season, Garon had only played in 43 games since being drafted. His record? An unimpressive 16-20-3. That kind of record isn't good on most teams, let alone the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens decided to ship him out to Los Angeles, along with San Jose's 3rd round choice, for Radek Bonk and Cristobal Huet on June 26, 2004.

However, Garon was sent to the Kings's AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, where he played in 52 games and sported a dazzling record of 32-14-4. The Kings noticed Garon's steady play and decided to promote him after the lockout to the big club in 2005-06. In 95 games with the Kings over two seasons, Garon posted a respectable 44-36-9 record. Greener pastures called in the off-season, though, and Garon left via free agency after having only appeared in 32 games in 2006-07.

Edmonton came calling, looking for a solid backup goalie to help their incumbent, Dwayne Roloson, and to bring some additional stability to a position that had failed them in previous seasons. When Roloson struggled, Garon stepped in and assumed the starting role. Thus far this season, Garon has compiled a record of 23-16-1 while playing for a somewhat disappointing Oilers squad.

The place where Garon has really made a name for himself, though, is in the shootout. Garon tied the NHL record for wins in the shootout with ten after the Oilers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in the shootouton Sunday. Garon tied Ryan Miller of the Barney Rubble Hairpieces and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils for win in a shootout. The latter two goalies set the standard last season.

But Garon hasn't just been good. He's been phenomenal in the shootout. Garon is 10-0 in the shootout. He has stopped 30 of 32 shots in the shootout. He's 5-0 at home, and 5-0 on the road. He hasn't allowed a goal on the road in the shootout thus far this season, stopping all 14 shooters he has faced. Because of Garon's success in the shootout, the Oilers set the record for most shootout wins in one season with 14, and there are still lots of games to be played.

If I'm running an NHL team and playing against the Edmonton Oilers, I am telling my players to go for broke during overtime because going to the shootout is nearly suicide. The Oilers are 14-3, with their only shootout losses coming to the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars twice. However, the Dallas Stars just traded their shootout specialist in Jussi Jokinen to the Tampa Bay Lightning, so they may not be safe from the Garon Wall either.

While it may be safe to say that the Oilers aren't going to make the playoffs this season, they can certainly affect the rest of the standings in the Western Conference by winning games. Winning in the shootout has given the fans of the Oilers something to cheer about, and every single point can affect the standings one way or another. Thanks to Mathieu Garon, the Oilers have 10 additional points this season that they may not have had if any other player was in net.

If Mathieu Garon has earned anything, he deserves a shot at being the starter in Edmonton for next season. Roloson's career statistics may be better, but Garon has done everything asked of him plus more, and there's nothing more you could ask of a player if you're a general manager. Especially one who came cheap on the salary cap, and gives your team a chance to win every night he's in the net.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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