Custom Search

Giguere reaches 500; Glenn Hall played 500... in a row!

Hockey fans know that J.S. Giguere has had a fine NHL career.  That said, I must disclose I barely remember his time with Hartford (really?) and Calgary.  But when he reached the 500 game regular-season milestone earlier this week, I thought back to just how good he was through most of the 2003 playoffs, when the Anaheim Ducks made their improbable run to the finals.

In the first two to three rounds of the playoffs, including against the heavily-favored Red Wings, Giguerre was on a roll that you see every once in a while.  He was so good, he frustrated some of the best scorers in the league throughout much of the playoffs.  (I remember that run fondly in part because two-time Maple Leaf Steve Thomas was so instrumental in Anaheim’s success.) Giguere was “locked in”, “in the zone”, however we want to describe it.  His mechanics, his concentration was simply superb that spring over a period of weeks.  I think his save percentage in the playoffs that year was something like .950 over 20+ games, and you just don’t see that often.

Giguere later cemented his reputation a few years later when the Ducks actually won the Cup in 2007, though I don’t think he was quite as dominant then as he had been a few years earlier.

So 500 games is a significant achievement for Giguere, and he shows signs that he may just have a few seasons left.

What that statistical milestone made me harken back to, though, is just how amazing it was when fellow goalie Glenn Hall played 500 games in the NHL—in a row. Hall (shown at right with a young Bobby Hull and 1961 Cup-winning coach Rudy Pilous) accomplished that without missing a single start, or end, of one of those games.  And he did it as one of the best goaltenders of all time.

That’s a stunning achievement by any athlete in any era.  (Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken playing more than 2000 baseball games in a row is a remarkable achievement, but I'm not sure it surpasses what Hall achieved as a hockey goalie.)  No, goalies back then didn’t as often face the kinds of shots that players have nowadays, but they still faced some big shooters— just not as many.  They also played, in Hall’s case, without a mask when he established this consecutive games record.  Teams played 70 games a season.  He played them all.  They had back-to-back games almost every weekend, and they travelled by train, not via the comfort of modern planes way back when.

He started his streak with the Detroit Red Wings in the mid 1950s and continued it when he was traded to the Black Hawks in the late ‘50s.  He led the Hawks to the 1961 Stanley cup, beating the five-time defending Cup champions from Montreal in the semi-finals.  Hall earned back to back shut outs in the last two games of that series.

His streak of consecutive games ended in the 1962-’63 season, but he went on to play more than 900 regular-season games, and another 115 in the playoffs.  I’ll write more another time about how Hall helped change the goaltending position, but suffice for now to say that he was an acrobatic, athletic goalie who hated to lose.  He was one of the quickest goalies I’ve ever seen and was an absolutely elite level NHL goalie, a competitor who fully earned his entry into the Hall-of-Fame.

I don’t know that Giguere will ever make the Hall-of-Fame, but he, too, has had a tremendous NHL career.  And Leaf fans are hoping he can help the locals win a championship, before his career is finished.        

No comments:

Post a Comment