|King of the Crease||Tweet|
|Written by Matt Bugg|
|Saturday, 08 March 2008 10:59|
27 year-old goaltender Jason LaBarbera looked to have finally taken the next step. Despite a GAA of 3.00, the Burnaby native's shining 0.910% paced the Los Angeles Kings by a wide margin. However, season-ending hernia surgery on March 5th put the long-awaited keeper on the shelf. With JS Aubin gone to the Anaheim Ducks in a deadline deal, LA's options were Dan Cloutier and an AHL goalie with an .897 SV% and 2.92 save percentage.
However, despite all the hype, Ersberg's adjustment to North America did not go as planned. While he didn't make the roster out of camp- Jonathan Bernier did- Ersberg was expected to go down to Manchester and rip it up; after all, he'd dominated an arguably tougher league just a season earlier.
Months later, Kings fans were still waiting. Some had even begun to see Ersberg's one-year contract as a blessing. While not terrible, he failed to rise above 21 year-old rookie pro Jonathan Quick and albatross Dan Cloutier.
And then March 2nd came.
With LaBarbera headed for the OR, Kings management decided to give the struggling Ersberg his shot; Quick, Cloutier and JS Aubin had had theirs. Why not Erik? After all, he'd performer admirably in his only taste of NHL action, a late entry to a game on February 23rd. Despite already behind 5-1, Ersberg came in and played as if it were 0-0. Miraculously, the King came back, tying the game at 5 with 15 seconds left. Ersberg would make 18 saves on 19 shots, allowing just one- the OT winner.
March 2nd was a historical day. Despite being in the league 40 years, the Kings had never had a Swedish goaltender start a game. Ersberg's performance soon made fans realize what they were missing. Despite losing in OT again, Ersberg performed admirably, stopping 33 of 35 shots in a 2-1 loss. He followed it up two nights later with another 31-shot barrage, holding the Kings in until seven minutes to go in the third period.
And on Thursday night, Erik Ersberg posted his first-ever career shutout against the powerhouse Ottawa Senators.
So what are poolies to make of the late-blooming Swede? Well, his current 1.68 GAA and 0.952 Sv% are likely unmaintainable long-term. However, he'll continue to get his starts as he continues to play well. If you need a secondary option down the stretch, Ersberg is an excellent choice. It;s important to remember, though, that LA's defense won't make his job very easy.
And as for next year? Shortlist him as a major sleeper if his play keeps. LA may have found the solution to their goalie problem at long last.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 09 March 2008 11:11|