The year was 1997. I was driving in the passenger seat of my dad's banged up Subaru. The radio announcer mentioned something about a "rookie phenom" (I remember this phrase exactly) named Patrick Lalime who was well on his way to leading the Penguins to a series of victories between the pipes.
My dad and I were debating how many wins Lalime would get before his streak came to an end. Hindsight, since it wasn't exactly a win streak (more like a unbeaten run) we probably should've debated the bigger picture. But whatever. I was 13. Cut me some slack.
Lalime went 14-0-2 to start his NHL career. He looked like he may very well have a future with the Penguins between the pipes. The next Tom Barrasso? Patrick Roy? Ken Dryden? The names were being thrown around regularly and it wasn't without just cause. The dude was good. And his numbers backed it up.
But then after the 96-97 season, the Pens and Lalime were unable to work out a deal. He spent that season with the Grand Rapids Griffins and never sported a Penguins jersey again.
It's weird to think that a guy like Lalime could just come and go so easily in the history of this franchise. In a way, when Ty Conklin was getting the starts in net back in 2007-08, Lalime comparisons were being drawn. Maybe not on a bigger scale, but I know for sure I was doing it.
Unlike Conklin, Lalime didn't slip into a career of mediocrity after his record-setting season with the Penguins. It took a few years to crack an NHL roster again, but in 1999 Lalime did so as a member of the Ottawa Senators. He posted two of his best season with the Sens, 36 wins in 2000-01 and 39 W's in 2002-03. Then he slipped into the realm of mediocrity.
The St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres closed out Lalime's career, but as far as I'm concerned his best numbers came when he sported a Penguins jersey. He finished with a career stat line of 200 wins, 174 losses, 32 ties and 16 overtime losses.
So here's to Lalime, who officially retired from the NHL today in pursuit of a TV gig with RDS. Thanks for that one season.