With Alex Auld parting ways with the Rangers following the end of the 2009-10 season, the Blueshirts were left without a back-up goaltender heading into free agency last summer. Meanwhile, Islanders GM Garth Snow granted Marty Biron permission to negotiate with other teams prior to the opening of free agency on July 1, because clearly the Isles had no intentions of re-signing the then 32-year-old netminder. The Rangers and Biron crossed paths somewhere in the middle of those two stories, and as the first signing of Free Agency 2011, Glen Sather inked Marty for two years at $875,000 per.
The Rangers now had their back-up goaltender.
Biron posted a 8-6 record in his first season with the Rangers, along with a 2.13 GAA and a .923 save percentage. He played in a total of 17 games, though, as he came in to relieve Henrik Lundqvist three times over the course of the regular season. In those three games, which he played just over a period in each, Biron allowed a total of five goals.
When you go back and look at the schedule and you look closely at the games Marty started in, you may see "L" listed several times, but that is no indication of how the Quebec native played in that game. With the exception of the match-up against the Islanders in December, Biron was solid in net against every team he faced this year. The problem was, to no one's surprise, that he lacked offensive support from his teammates and in turn many of his losses were by only one goal.
Biron signed with the Rangers coming off probably his worst season ever as a member of the Islanders. In a few months time, Marty and Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire fixed up his game so that he would again look like the goaltender who carried the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs just a few years ago. In my opinion, Allaire did a fantastic job.
Biron, for the most part, looked comfortable in net both physically and mentally. Like Henrik, he is a competitor who wants nothing more than to win. You can see that in the way he guards the net, but as I mentioned above, his stellar performances fell short because his teammates sometimes did not want it as badly as he did apparently.
One thing I will say, though, is that Marty's teammates were always very willing to stick up for him in and around the goal crease when opposing players got too close. I honestly believe this is a result of the way Marty treats everyone in the locker room. Everyone who is in the Rangers locker room on a daily basis says that Biron is a prototypical "team guy" and he is willing to give words of encouragement to anyone. That is always a great thing to have on a team, and it also shows that he is making the most of his time here in New York since he is not always playing as a back-up.
And who could forget the many times Biron coached Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski from the bench before a shootout? Marty is a very intelligent guy, as most goalies are, and evidently did his scouting when it came to fellow netminders from around the league. His effective advice on how to beat a goaltender in the skills competition earned him the nickname "shootout guru", and again displayed his unselfish team-first traits.
I personally am a big fan of what Biron has to offer as a goaltender and I think he is the perfect back-up for Henrik Lundqvist. He will push Hank to stay on his game, and when rest is needed, Marty is always ready to go and fill in the spot on any given night. Unfortunately a broken collarbone suffered back on February 28 kept Marty out of the lineup for the final six weeks or so of the season, and honestly, I think the team missed him in many ways.
Now that the collarbone is all healed up, hopefully Biron can play the full season in 2011-12, because the Rangers are going to benefit greatly from his presence, both in the crease and on the bench.
Also be sure to follow Marty on his new Twitter account: @martybiron43