Head Coach Ron Wilson plans to start Brian Boucher in goal at Los Angeles on Thursday night. For two reasons. One, it’s a reward for his stellar play when he started three games after arriving following the trade deadline. Second, Wilson wants his backup goaltender to be as fresh as possible if he’s needed during the postseason.
Vezina and Hart Memorial Trophy candidate Evgeni Nabokov will play in most, if not all, of the Sharks postseason games, but Boucher has shown in his brief time in Silicon Valley that he’ll be ready if necessary.
In his three starts, Boucher has allowed just two goals, posted one shutout and registered an amazing .974 save percentage. For Boucher, coming to San Jose has been good for him after spending a majority of the season playing for Philadelphia’s American Hockey League affiliate in Philadelphia.
“I’ve been fortunate to come into a situation where the team is on a roll,” Boucher said. “We haven’t lost two in a row since I’ve gotten here. I think that’s a product of how good this team is defensively and how prepared they are with the scouting plans. It’s not like I’ve come in and faced 50 shots.”
“He’s been in this league before and is a very good listener and a very good player,” defenseman Kyle McLaren said. “Sometimes, it takes time for a player to adjust, but we’ve told him to keep is simple and just worry about stopping the puck.”
Boucher’s teammates appreciate what they’ve seen so far.
“He’s come in and done a great job,” Captain Patrick Marleau
said. “He’s given us a chance to win. He’s come in and been focused. He earned our trust right away and that’s a huge thing.”
“The players have the same confidence in ‘Bouch’ as they do with ‘Nabby,’” said Jody Shelley, who briefly played with Boucher in Columbus last season. “You don’t even worry about him.”
To a man, Boucher’s teammates have noticed how hard this former first round draft pick works.
“He’s a very hard worker,” McLaren said. “He’s a strong competitor with great composure.”
“His work ethic, absolutely,” said Shelley about Boucher’s top attribute. “He works hard on the ice every day.”
While he has admirably filled in for Nabokov when called upon, the two are different on the ice.
“I think they’re two different goalies, but the way we play, giving up less than 20 shots a game, we’re just trying to take away the second and third chances,” McLaren said. “Maybe a little more talking about what he wants us to do. Other than that, both goalies are on the same page with the defensemen.”
Boucher is similar to Nabokov in one way.
“He’s really calm,” Marleau said. “That’s what you want in a goalie. I know he’s done some work with (Vice President and Assistant General Manager) Wayne Thomas on cutting down the angles.”
Boucher’s six-foot-two frame can also provide a big screen to the net.
“He’s not a small goalie, I’ll tell you that. I can’t score on him,” McLaren said with a smile.
Boucher knows there’s a difference in preparing to be a starter or being on the bench.
“When told you’re going to be playing in a game, you prepare differently,” Boucher said. “When you have to be prepared at all times, you have to keep your head in the game. Most nights you don’t get the call, but then you have to be ready.”
Whether a starter or in relief, Boucher will always bring his competitive spirit to the game.
“I think as a goaltender you have to be a competitor,” Boucher said. “As a goalie, you have to hate to be scored on and I don’t like being scored on even in practice. If that translates into work ethic, great.”
With the way Boucher has been playing, there’s no hate going his way, only a lot of love for some great first impressions.NEXT GAME
The Sharks visit Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. tonight. and the game will be available on Comcast SportsNet Plus, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.