Riku Helenius' shutout of Hamilton Bulldogs a long time coming
It had been well over 3 and a half years since Helenius first (and only) AHL shutout.
Syracuse Crunch goaltender Riku Helenius' claim to fame this season so far has been his goalie fight with Binghamton Senators netminder Robin Lehner from a few weeks back, and perhaps the poor game he was having in net at the time (5 goals on 13 shots faced). That outing ballooned his goals against average to Felix Baumgartener stratospheric heights, and dropped his save percentage to somewhere that put him on par with the Mike Smith / Dan Ellis goaltending tandem's heinous stats of the 2010-11 season.
With a 1 and 1 record, Riku made his fourth start for the Crunch this season last night against the Hamilton Bulldogs (the minor league affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens). Helenius went on to achieve something he had not done in North America since February 6th, 2009. Riku pitched a shutout.
Helenius made his very first AHL game start for the Norfolk Admirals against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers when he had his first AHL shutout. That was quite a premiere feat for the young Finnish goalie. Helenius' 2008-09 season had previously bounced him around between ECHL clubs, and he'd even made a brief appearance with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the season was over.
The one thing that Helenius did not do again for the Ads was shut out the opposition.
Browsing around AHL statistics doesn't afford you the differential between appearing in a game and a game start for goalies, so while I can say that Helenius was not credited with a shutout in a span of 36 games, I can't quite say that he started all those games he had appeared in... In vagueness, it had been somewhere over 3 years and 8 months since Riku's first (and previously only) AHL shutout.
That's not to say Helenius was a stranger to shutting out opposition. The former 1st round draft pick had 7 shutouts last season for JYP Jyvaskyla of Finland's SM-Liiga.
But Helenius' 23 save effort in Hamilton last night earned him the 1st star of the 3-0 win and further stabilized his season stats (3.43 GAA and an.868 save percentage).