TORONTO – Martin Biron is quietly making his case as the best No. 2 goalie in the NHL.
Biron earned the shutout with 20 saves as the New York Rangers blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 on Canadian Forces night at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.
It was Biron’s second shutout of the season and seventh win in his past eight starts. He’s now 9-2-0 and improved on his already stellar 2.06 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
“I can’t even call him a backup,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “He’s played very well.…He has been a perfect fit for where we are as team. He’s a perfect teammate. He understands his role. He knows that Henrik (Lundqvist) is the guy.”
Biron even got an assist on the Rangers’ third goal by Derek Stepan in the final period. It was his fourth helper of the season, tied for tops in the league with Craig Anderson.
With Lundqvist losing both games against the Maple Leafs in New York earlier in the season, Tortorella opted to go with Biron against the Leafs in Toronto.
Since signing with the Rangers in 2010, Biron has allowed New York to play Lundqvist less and save him for the playoffs. Last season, ‘King’ Henrik played 68 games, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2005-06. Biron played in 17 games and is on pace to play 22 this season.
“This allows Henrik to continue to practise at a high level and not get sloppy in his game,” said Tortorella. “Plus we’re getting wins with this guy. He’s been a very good piece for us in the first half and we hope it’s going to continue.”
After being a starter most of his 14-year NHL career, Biron has thrived in the backup role the past two seasons with the Rangers. But with Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Vancouver’s Cory Schneider getting most of the plaudits as the best backup in the league, Biron’s strong season has been overlooked by everyone except his teammates.
“Those two goalies are good young goalies,” said Brian Boyle, who scored the Rangers’ second goal. “But look what Marty has done and look what he’s done for us as a club. That’s great for those two and Cory Schneider is a good friend of mine.…But we don’t care about that. We just care about Marty and we know he’s going to play well for us.
“It doesn’t happen as much around the league to have two guys play as well as our guys do. We’re happy to have him. We want to contribute and play well in front of him.”
As a tandem, Lundqvist and Biron are among the best in the league this season.
“We have a great relationship,” said Biron, a 34-year-old native of Lac-St-Charles, Que. “We’ve played extremely well together, practice extremely well together, we just get along really well. It’s been a great partnership.
“He’s an extremely focused and technical goalie and I’m looser, more of a feel kind of guy. I’ve learned a lot from him in technical and focus parts of the game and hopefully I’ve rubbed off a little of that looseness to give him the year that he’s had. It’s great chemistry that’s going to keep going.”