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Long Playing Goaltender

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks goalie Brian Boucher, right, pokes the puck off the stick of Phoenix Coyotes left winger Marcel Hossa.(AP Photo/Paul Connors)
At the trading deadline on Feb. 26, San Jose made three deals. Everyone knows about the first one (getting defenseman Brian Campbell from Buffalo). The second one was sending defenseman Rob Davison to the Islanders.


But the third deal got lost in the euphoria of acquiring Campbell.

And the transaction wasn’t a trade, but a signing as the Sharks inked veteran goaltender Brian Boucher, who had been playing for the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms, as a free agent.

The 31-year-old had been playing for the Phantoms after going to training camp with the Flyers, the team that made him their first round pick (22nd overall) in 1995.

Boucher entered 2007-08 having played in 220 National Hockey League regular season and 21 postseason games. Included in those 220 NHL games is a string of five consecutive shutouts and more than five-and-a-half hours of shutout hockey. He achieved those NHL records while playing for Phoenix in 2003-04.

Before Boucher made those entries in the record books, he created a spot in Stanley Cup history by playing in a five-overtime game at Pittsburgh during the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

San Jose Sharks goalie Brian Boucher, top, watches as center Curtis Brown throws himself in front of the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Keith Primeau’s goal at 12:01 of the fifth overtime gave the Flyers a 2-1 win in Game Four. The game time (152:01) made it the longest in modern NHL history. The length of the game (six hours and 56 minutes) also set a record. During that time, Boucher made 57 saves and went 149:26 without allowing a goal.

“I actually watched it for the first time this year,” Boucher, who saw the replay on Philadelphia television during Thanksgiving, said. “It was pretty cool to be part of it. It’s a classic.”

Pittsburgh got the first goal early in the game, but the Flyers scored the tying goal late in the third period. “It was clutch and grab hockey after that,” Boucher said.

“It was an important game for us,” he continued. “It was Game Four in Pittsburgh and we needed that win to even the series. There was no way mentally that we could take a break.

“It got humorous after a while,” he added. “We had a great group of guys. They were laughing and when they’d come into the locker room between periods, one of them would say, ‘Please, somebody end this thing.’ We were light (sense of humor) and that helped us win the game.”

Based on what was at stake and the attitude in the dressing room, staying upbeat mentally through the never-ending game was easy. Physically, that’s another story.

“When you got to periods six, seven and eight, fatigue and cramping set in,” Boucher said. “We went through all of the food in the locker room, the postgame pizzas, the Power Bars and gels.”

While the Flyers won the next two games to advance, they wound up losing to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals after taking a 3-1 lead.

The marathon playoff game was part of a memorable rookie season for Boucher. He was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team after leading the League with a 1.91 goals-against average. Boucher also won 20 of his 35 games while sharing the starting job with veteran John Vanbiesbrouck.

When the postseason came, Flyers Coach Craig Ramsay went with Boucher, as opposed to Vanbiesbrouck, who was Florida’s starting goaltender during their 1996 Stanley Cup Final run.
San Jose Sharks goalie Brian Boucher, left, stops a shot by St. Louis Blues' Andy McDonald, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 1, 2008, in St. Louis. Boucher made 23 saves in his first start of the season, helping the Sharks to a 2-0 victory. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Boucher didn’t disappoint Ramsay and his teammates. He won 11 of his 18 games and posted a 2.03 GAA.

“It was a surprise to me, being a rookie,” Boucher said of Ramsay’s decision to start him over Vanbiesbrouck. “It was quite a thrill. I was too young to realize the importance of it. I was playing well. The team felt comfortable with me in goal. It was a great experience.”

Now, Boucher is doing what Vanbiesbrouck did in 2000: serving as the backup.

Chances are Boucher will see limited action as Evgeni Nabokov will get most, if not all, of the minutes. If that’s the case, the marathon goaltender will be on stand-by.

“I have to be ready,” Boucher said. “I have to practice hard and be sharp mentally. If something were to happen, this team will count on me to do a job for them. I expect that from myself. I’ve played in big playoff games before. If I get that opportunity, I want to be ready.”

But regardless of what happens over the next few months, no one can take away Boucher’s memories of that long-running Stanley Cup Playoff game in 2000.

“It was a good time in my career. It brought back great vibes,” he said. “That’s a place you want to revisit all the time as a player. You want to go back to the good times when you felt great and played your best. To see us celebrate that victory was pretty sweet.”

EHRHOFF SKATES
San Jose Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, right, of Germany check into the boards Anaheim Ducks center Todd Marchant, left, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, March 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff made his return to this ice at Saturday's morning skate. The Moers, Germany native had been absent from the Sharks lineup since April 3 because of a lower body injury.

“I felt pretty good out there,” said Ehrhoff after practice. “Today was the first day that it felt good. I just have to wait and see how it feels the rest of the day.”

But whether or not he plays in Game 3 is still up in the air. According to Ehrhoff, he’ll let Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson know how he’s feeling tomorrow and Wilson will decide whether or not to add him to the lineup.

According to Wilson, if Ehrhoff is ready, he’ll be in the lineup.

“If he’s ready to play, then yes (he’ll play),” Wilson explained.

IN THE SYSTEM
Sharks prospect Mike Moore was named First Team All-American on Friday for his instrumental role as a defenseman for Princeton University. Another prospect, Nick Petrecki, who was drafted 28th overall in 2007, is playing for the NCAA title this weekend for Boston College.

NEXT GAME
The Sharks head to Calgary for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday at 7:00 PM (Pacific). The game will be available on Comcast SportsNet, 98.5 KFOX FM, Sharks Radio Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.
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