Through the Blue Jackets’ first 417 games as a National Hockey League franchise, only two goaltenders had posted a shutout for Columbus.
That changed on Friday night when the Los Angeles Kings ventured into Nationwide Arena and Pascal Leclaire recorded 38 saves in a 2-0 win, earning his first NHL shutout.
“I haven’t had a lot of shutouts in my life (at any level), so really, that’s something,” Leclaire said. “But obviously, I think the most important thing is that we won.”
In posting the goose egg, Leclaire became the first Blue Jacket not named Marc Denis or Ron Tugnutt to record a shutout for the five-year old franchise.
“We are all very happy with Pascal, on how he finished last season and how he started this season,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “He is a big part of our team.”
The other two goaltenders to post a shutout while wearing a CBJ uniform, Tugnutt and Denis, split the goaltending load from 2000-02, with Tugnutt posting six shutouts before being traded to Dallas at the 2002 Entry Draft. At the time, Leclaire, the Jackets first pick, eighth overall in 2001, was completing his fourth season in the QMJHL and ready to make the leap from amateur to the pros, breaking in with Syracuse that season.
Leclaire made his NHL debut in 2004, having a two-game cup of coffee with the big club in Columbus suffering two losses while stopping 62-of-69 shots.
The following season, the Repentigny, Quebec native, entered training camp and showed enough to earn the Opening Night start and rotate games throughout the season with Denis. The 24-year-old goaltender finished the campaign with an 11-15-3 mark, making 40 or more saves six times, which was the most by a rookie goaltender since Mike Richter in 1990-91.
Those numbers helped prompt Denis’ trade to the Lightning as the Jackets acquired forward Fredrik Modin and goaltender Fredrik Norrena on June 30, 2006. Denis departed for Tampa Bay holding the franchise record in just about every goaltending category, with an 84-146-25 record, a 3.01 GAA and 12 shutouts.
The trade cleared the path for Leclaire to be the Jackets’ No. 1 goaltender and he has not disappointed, posting a 3-3-1 mark and earning his first shutout on Friday night.
“I wasn’t aware it was his first one, so congratulations to ‘Pazzy,’ Modin said. “He’s been playing fantastic in all of these games that we’ve been playing at the start of the season here.
“(Before I came), I wasn’t aware of what a quality goaltender he was. I knew he was good, but he’s been fantastic. Hopefully, he can continue playing the way he has been.”
For the Jackets to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Leclaire will be a big reason why.