By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
Don’t feel sorry for Dany Sabourin, feel sorry for the Wheeling Nailers’ opponents when Sabourin is in goal.
Sabourin could look at himself as a victim of the NHL lockout. The 24-year-old goalie from Val d’Or, Quebec, spent four games with the Calgary Flames last season and probably would be playing in the American Hockey League if the NHL was not dark.
Sabourin instead has gotten off to a phenomenal start with the Nailers, turning in a 1.28 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage after 13 games, and accounting for all 10 of the Nailers wins. Sabourin leads the league with three shootout wins and is tied for the league lead with 10 wins. He ranks second in goals-against average, save percentage and saves (345) and is third in minutes (750).
Sabourin knew his best path back to the NHL would not be through Calgary, since the Flames already had several goalies in their system. Instead, Sabourin looked to Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I was pretty happy when Pittsburgh called,” said Sabourin. “I didn’t want to just sign an ECHL deal.”
It didn’t bother Sabourin that with the lockout looming one of the goalies in the Penguins system was Marc-Andre Fleury, the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NHL draft.
“When I signed, in my mind I was going to Wilkes-Barre to make the team,” said Sabourin. “I made a good impression and that was my goal. I want to make a good first impression and that is what I did. I am driving to get higher in the system.”
Sabourin has made an impression on Nailers coach Pat Bingham. Sabourin has been one of the main reasons the Nailers managed to stay over .500 despite scoring just 23 goals in their first 13 games.
“When he needs to make the big stops he not only makes the big save, but he gets the whistle for us when we start faltering,” said Bingham. “He not only makes the save, but he gobbles up the puck and gets the whistle when we need it most.”
Sabourin was a fourth-round selection of the Flames in the 1998 draft and spent most of his first two seasons as a professional in the AHL. He got a taste of the ECHL with a stop in Johnstown during the 2000-01 season and again in the 2001-02 season. Until this season, he had put up better numbers in the AHL then he did in the ECHL.
Sabourin became a goalie at the age of eight, falling in love with the equipment and trying to emulate Patrick Roy.
“I loved it the first time I tried it,” said Sabourin. “I always liked putting the pads on. I would always come back from playing street hockey telling my mom and dad about the saves I made.”
At 6-4 and 190 pounds, it is natural for Sabourin to copy the style of Roy.
“I want to play big,” said Sabourin. “I want to be square all the time with the puck. I want to feel big in the net and challenge a player coming at me.”
Sabourin tries to look at every game the same way no matter what the league or the arena.
“Everywhere I go in practice and in games since I was young I use the same values,” said Sabourin. “I give everything I have. When you keep working hard every day, good things happen and right now they are happening to me.”
Bingham feels part of Sabourin’s ability to succeed is not getting caught up at what level he is playing at.
“Being a young guy like he is, he could fall into the trap of thinking his career is going in the wrong direction,” said Bingham. “I admire him for his maturity, focus and intensity. He has come down with a great attitude. His plan is to make every day count and he has been doing that.”
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