Aebischer, Sauve keep Avs winning

Life after Patrick Roy? David Aebischer and Phil Sauve are continuing Colorado's winning ways.

Updated: November 18, 2003, 7:05 PM ET
By Darren Pang | Special to

The Colorado Avalanche are getting solid goaltending from David Aebischer, who has won his last three starts heading into Tuesday night's ESPN2 game against Anaheim, allowing six goals in wins at Chicago and San Jose and at home against Dallas.

His rookie partner, Phil Sauve, got his first NHL win in a 2-1 game against Phoenix and was named the first star as he stopped 27 shots.

I spent some time in Chicago with Phil's father, Bob. I remember sitting on the bench during training camp in a scrimmage, and Bob took me aside and told me that I could play in this league. He said, "Don't let anyone tell you you that you're too small to be here. I have watched you for two training camps and you can play."

That had a great impact on my confidence. He is a terrific man and is now one of the most respected agents out there as he took over the business of Avs GM Pierre Lacroix. Congrats to his son, Phillipe, on his first win and many more in the future.

In Columbus, I know they appreciate Marc Denis, the one-time Avs backup. The Blue Jackets see him all the time. But he may be the most underappreciated commodity in the NHL (that may be a stretch as there are many, I know!). He won 4-3 against Calgary, making 42 saves. He made 30 saves in Montreal in a 1-1 game. Yet he was not even a star of the game in either one of them. Although he lost to Boston 4-0, the sign of a mature goalie is bounce-back ability. He came back in his next game with a solid 2-2 tie against Phoenix, making 29 saves.

Marty Turco just got help. From the Hawks, the Stars received Jon Klemm, a steady, stay-at-home defender who uses a long stick and hacks and whacks in front of the net. They also get top defensive forward Jere Lehtinen back in the lineup Wednesday. Look for a turnaround in Big D on "D."

Turco must get back to the basics of getting square to the first shot and trusting that the next one will get taken care of. He played very well in the 3-0 loss at Colorado, making 38 saves. It should be the game that turns things around; he is too good to be playing poorly. He is a difference maker in close games because players rally around his confidence, but it all starts with the basics.

The NHL's defensive player of the week, Edmonton's Ty Conklin, is a wonderful story. Conklin, 27, was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and played college hockey at New Hampshire, where he was the runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award in 2000-01. He also took the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL to the Calder Cup finals before losing in the seventh game to Houston last year.

You talk about perseverence and maturity; this guy has it. Great stuff. He went 3-1-0 and was the first star in his last two games, winning 2-0 at Minnesota and 2-1 at Calgary, making 55 total saves in the two key games.

I watched Martin Biron closely on Monday night to see where he is heading as far as growth is concerned, not to mention consistency, and he was a rock in Buffalo's 2-1 win at Ottawa. His lateral movement was flawless. He robbed Marian Hossa going from his right post to his left with incredible ease and composure. The key will be his next game. It will be making the first save and going from there, not giving up a marginal goal.

Tomas Vokoun has been on fire lately, playing the way he did during that three-month stretch last year when he nearly go the Predators into the playoffs. He has won his last three games and lost the other by a rare score of 2-1. It was rare because he only gave up one goal! The score was 1-0 Chicago, and he was pulled for the extra man when Steve Poapst of the Hawks scored an empty-net goal. The Preds scored right after that to make it 2-1 and lost the game. Vokoun is in a groove, though.

John Grahame in Tampa has been terrific. He lost 1-0 to Los Angeles, tied Carolina 1-1 making 38 saves (first star) and won 5-2 at Washington. With Nikolai Khabibulin, that is as good a 1-2 tandem as we have in the NHL right now.

Let's move to this week's top-five rankings, based only on the goalies' last five games:


5. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

Martin Brodeur
4 GP, 3-0-1, 0.73 GAA, .968 save percentage
He played four of their last five games, which is not unusual. His partner, Corey Schwab, was the first star in the only game he played in the last five games, and it was a good one as he stopped 27 shots against Toronto and was the first star. They have a solid pro in Albany named Scott Clemmonson that can't get a sniff in the NHL because of how Schwab can slide in and out without being noticed, but always does his job. Brodeur went 3-0-1 giving up a paltry three goals in the process. He shutout Ottawa in the rematch of last year's terrific seven-game series, 1-0 (26 saves, first star) and tied Buffalo 2-2 with 26 saves and beat Florida 3-1 and the Rangers 5-0. There is no matching his consistency, night in and night out.

4. Andrew Raycroft/Felix Potvin, Boston Bruins

Felix Potvin
Andrew Raycroft
Raycroft: 3 GP, 3-0-0, 1.63 GAA, .942 save percentage
Potvin: 2 GP, 1-0-1, 2.42 GAA, .894 save percentage
The Bruins are at the top of the NHL with 25 points, and both goalies deserve to be here. Raycroft has been the stronger of the two in the last five games and deserves to be recognized as a top Calder candidate, playing in three of them and only allowing five goals against. He seems to be taking over the top spot, but it is a long season and coach Mike Sullivan is doing a nice job of plugging them both in at the right times. Potvin tied San Jose 5-5 in the Bruins' worst defensive game of the five, but then Raycroft beat Dallas 4-1, making 27 saves (second star). He played the next game and won 4-3 at Edmonton with 31 saves before Potvin blanked Columbus 4-0 ( 24 saves) and Raycroft won 2-1 against Vancouver with 23 saves (third star).

3. Dwayne Roloson, Minnesota Wild

5 GP, 2-2-1, 0.85 GAA, .969 save percentage
The Wild are close to .500, and Rolly has been a main reason why. He has given up just four goals in his last five games with one of them in place of Manny Fernandez. He started his recent five games with a 3-0 whitewashing of the Flames in Calgary, making 34 saves and being named the first star. Manny was pulled in the 4-3 loss at Vancouver once the score was 3-0 at the end of the first period. Rolly gave up a goal in the second period to make it 4-0. The Wild scored three goals in the third, but lost 4-3, so Rolly got the loss. If the Wild would have only scored two goals, then Manny would have gotten thee loss. Get that? Rolly came back to beat Vancouver 1-0 ( 29 saves, first star) and was solid in the 2-0 loss to Edmonton ( 28 saves) and then tied Detroit 1-1, making 27 saves including a penalty shot against Pavel Datsyuk.

2. Robert Esche/Jeff Hackett, Philadelphia Flyers

Jeff Hackett
Robert Esche
Esche: 2 GP, 2-0-0, 2.46 GAA, .907 save percentage
Hackett: 3 GP, 3-0-0, 0.66 GAA, .967 save percentage
The Flyers are rolling. They have been creative offensively without losing sight on the defensive side of the puck, and it has been fun to watch. Esche has gone 2-0 and Hackett has gone 3-0, with the pair giving up only seven total goals in the process. Esche won 4-2 against Washington, making 20 saves, and beat Vancouver 4-3, stopping 29 shots (third star). Hackett won 2-1 at the Rangers, handling 21 pucks, and then did the same to the Islanders, 2-1, with 23 saves. He finished up with a solid 4-0 win against Atlanta, making 24 saves, and was the game's second star.

1. Chris Osgood, St. Louis Blues

Chris Osgood
4 GP, 4-0-0, 1.22 GAA, .950 save percentage
Ozzie has been really good this season. He has made the saves you're supposed to make and has changed the momentum of games with some brilliant ones. He won four in a row before giving way to Brent Johnson in the 4-3 loss at Anaheim. Ozzie gave up just five goals in the four wins on a team that has averaged 18.7 penalty minutes per game ( 23rd ranked), meaning they can spend some time on the PK, where the tough shots come from. He beat the gritty Canucks 3-2 with 27 saves in the rematch of last year's playoff series that the Blues led before falling and losing the series. He was thirdd star in the 2-0 win against Florida ( 21 saves) and won 4-3 at San Jose, making 30 saves. The quiet native of Spruce Grove, Alberta, then shut out the Kings 1-0 (first star). In one-goal games the Blues are an impressive 8-4, with the injuries they have had to deal with and the loss of veteran future Hall of famer Al McInnis out indefinitely, not to mention suspensions to both Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk. This is a pretty impressive run for Osgood and the Blues.

Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN. His goalie rankings appear every other week in Net Effect.

Darren Pang joined ESPN2 as an NHL game analyst in September 1993. He also works select ESPN National Hockey Night playoff contests and ABC Sports' telecasts. Pang played for the Blackhawks and was named to the All-Rookie team in 1987.