Coyotes' Boucher keeps shutout record alive

Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Brian Boucher has not let a puck get past him for five straight games, an amazing scoreless streak of nearly 5 1/2 hours that's unmatched by any other modern-era NHL goalie.

The Phoenix Coyotes backup knows it can't last much longer.

''You've got to be prepared that it's going to end at some point,'' Boucher said after breaking a 55-year-old record in a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on Friday night. ''There's going to be a lucky goal that goes off a skate or something like that.''

Boucher's five consecutive shutouts and 325 minutes, 45 seconds, worth of scoreless ice time have both surpassed records set by Montreal's Bill Durnan in 1949.

The NHL's modern era began in the 1943-1944 season, when the center red line was added. Alex Connell owns the overall records of six straight shutouts and a 461:29 scoreless streak for Ottawa in 1927-28, when forward passing was not permitted in the attacking zone.

Boucher is still a backup to Sean Burke, but coach Bob Francis said Boucher will start Sunday when Atlanta visits.

''It's the only fair thing to do,'' Francis said. ''It'd be unfair to put Sean in that predicament.''

Despite the deftness on display by Boucher, a streak like this does require some good fortune.

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire has seen a lot of records set, but something like this?

''Just never ever thought of that,'' Lemaire said.

So if a veteran of more than 3 1/2 decades as a coach, player and consultant can't fathom a goalie getting five straight shutouts, what does that say about Boucher?

''It says that the team was hot and the goalie was lucky,'' Lemaire said, breaking into laughter. ''You've got to be lucky. Come on! Not saying that he's not good. ... The kid is good, he'll be good, all that. But there are other goalies that proved themselves that they're better than he is prior to this season. And they haven't done it.''

Sure enough, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur none of them can say they shut out their opponents for this long.

''It's definitely surprising,'' said Anaheim defenseman Todd Simpson, a teammate of Boucher's last season in Phoenix. ''I mean, he's a good goalie, but you have to get some breaks along the way.''

Boucher's teammates are a little more hesitant to factor luck into this feat.

''Sometimes bounces go your way, but at some point you have to say he's unbelievable right now,'' said captain Shane Doan. ''After two games, you say he's playing pretty well. After three, it's like, 'Whew, you don't see this very often.' After four, you're like, 'Holy smokes, when was the last time this happened?'

''Five? I don't know what to say.''

Boucher's mask, fittingly, is painted to look like a brick wall. So the puck must look like a bowling ball now, huh?

''The puck doesn't look bigger, but I'm seeing it real well right now,'' Boucher said. ''I'm reading the play well and that's the most important thing. When you can read the play and the options, like a 3-on-2 and stuff like that, it makes the job a lot easier.

''It's just an unbelievable ride right now. The great thing is that it's a team game and the whole team is enjoying it, not just myself. The team has taken so much pride in playing defense and doing the right thing with the puck and as a result, we go five straight wins and we had a 4-0 road trip.''

Boucher split time with Roman Cechmanek in Philadelphia and was traded to Phoenix in 2002. Things weren't working out, though, and he started this season as a third-stringer.

''The most important thing was continuing to believe in yourself,'' said Boucher, who was left unprotected in the waiver draft and became the top backup to Burke when Zac Bierk hurt his groin in November. ''Careers have ups and downs, but you have to keep going ahead.''

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