As Cam Talbot was waiting for festivities to begin at the Smashfest charity fundraiser earlier this summer, an exuberant New York Rangers fan spotted the backup goalie and couldn't help but yell out some praise.
"Hey Cam!" he said. "You helped us get to the playoffs man, thanks!"
The Blueshirts die-hard was not wrong. Though Henrik Lundqvist did the heavy lifting, Talbot was a perfect No. 2, posting a 12-6-1 record with a 1.64 goals-against average. For a Rangers team that was far from a lock to get into the post-season, every start was crucial. And once they got in, the Rangers cut through the East before falling to the Kings in the Stanley Cup final.
“It was an unbelievable run," Talbot said. "I don’t think anyone really expected that from us. Everyone believed in the guy next to them and we really pulled together in the playoffs, we just couldn’t finish it off. It was a great stretch.”
Talbot, who grabbed the backup role when Martin Biron retired early in the season, is a rarity in the NHL, as he developed at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, the only southern Division 1 college program. Jared Ross, who played 13 games for Philadelphia over the course of two seasons, is the only other Charger to make it to the big-time so far. But New York's netminder came away impressed and pleased with his experience down south.
“It was a really good program," he said. "They have a good history there. It’s unfortunate that they can’t get as much high-end talent, because I don’t think a lot of players know they’re down there until they come calling (to recruit). I loved my time down there.”
Getting to play against top NCAA competition and never worrying about having to trudge through snow en route to class is a pretty tempting offer, but some of the other southern lures – like the local cuisine – had to be avoided on most occasions.
“You had to stay away from all the fried stuff to stay in shape," Talbot said. "But every once in awhile you’d get a cheat day and try something like alligator. I had that at a roadside stand one time, kinda tasted like chicken.”
Along with providing wins when Lundqvist had the night off, Talbot is also known for his goalie masks, several of which have been Ghostbusters-themed. And though Talbot does have a soft spot for the witty Dr. Peter Venkman, the films aren't really an obsession for him.
"To be honest, it was DaveArt, Dave Gunnarsson," he said. "He has always wanted to do one for New York because it fits so well and I guess I was the first to allow him to do it. “I was always a fan of the movies but maybe not to the extent that everybody thinks.”