Conks. The Conk-eror. The Conk-Blocker. Just a few of the names attributed to Ty Conklin. Over the past couple of weeks, he has earned the gratitude of Pittsburgh fans by posting a 7-0 record (2 shutouts), a 0.939 save percentage, and a 2.0 Goals Against Average (GAA). His remarkable play has displaced backup tender Dany Sabourin and eased the fears of Pittsburgh fans who watched in horror as Marc-Andre Fleury departed the lineup in early December for 6-8 weeks with an ankle injury. It is time to take a look at 3rd string goaltender Ty Conklin who has risen up out of the ashes of relative anonymity to become one of the key elements in the turnaround of the Pittsburgh Penguins season.
Born March 30, 1976, in Anchorage Alaska, Ty Conklin attended the University of New Hampshire (UNH) where he played from 1998-2001. In 3-years at UNH, Conklin made quite a name for himself. He played 93 games for the Wildcats, posting a 57-23-12 record (including 7 shutouts), a 0.916 save percentage, and a 2.18 GAA. He Captained the team in 2000-01 as the first UNH goalie Captain since 1961. He owns the UNH record for goals-against-average, save percentage, wins, games played and minutes. He also holds the program’s top-2 single season performance in goals-against and save percentage. Named Hockey East’s co-player of the year for 2000, he was a 2-time Hobey Baker Award finalist and a 2-time UNH All America selectee.
Despite his collegiate performance, Ty Conklin was not drafted into the NHL. He was signed in April 2001 as a non-drafted free agent by the Edmonton Oilers. His first NHL game was played with the Oilers on October 20, 2001, beating the Florida Panthers 6-2. He played in just 4-games that season (started for 2) and compiled a 2-0 record, a 0.939 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA. He spent most of the season playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL where he played in 37 games (13-12-8) and had a 0.916 save percentage and 2.61 GAA.
Conklin spent the entirety of 2002-03 in the AHL playing for Hamilton where he posted a 0.912 save percentage and 2.42 GAA. He played his first full NHL season with the Oilers in 2003-04, playing 38-games and putting up a 17-14-4 record, 0.912 save percentage, and 2.42 GAA. When the Oilers missed the post season, it enabled Conklin to play for Team USA in the 2004 IIHF World Championships where he played in 5-games for a 4-0-1 record, including one shutout, and a 2.14 GAA. He was the winning goalie in the 1-0 shootout Bronze Medal win over Slovakia, the first US World hockey medal in 8 years.
During the NHL lockout in 2004-05, he signed and played 11-games for Wolfsburg, Germany, and also played 3-games for the United States World team.
After the lockout, he played in 18 NHL games in 2005-06 for the Oilers posting an 8-5-1 record, an 0.880% and 2.8 GAA. Late in the 3rd period of Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, he was called in to relieve an injured Dwayne Roloson. He and Jason Smith mis-played the puck behind the net and gave the Carolina Hurricanes’ Rod Brindamour an easy wraparound empty-net goal that ultimately cost the Oilers the game. It was the last time that Conklin would be on the ice as an Edmonton Oiler, as the team declined his option for the 2006-07 NHL season.
Conklin entered free agency in the summer of 2006 where he was picked up by the Columbus Blue Jackets. His time in Columbus was short-lived, however, playing just half a season and going 2-3-2 with a 3.30 GAA in 11 appearances. He was traded to the Buffalo Sabres on 27 Feb 07 during the entry draft in exchange for a 2007 2nd round draft pick. Ty played in just 5-games for the Sabres going 1-2, with a 0.892 save percentage and a 3.44 GAA. He spent most of the season in Syracuse playing 19-games in the AHL, and posting a miserable 3-12 record, a 0.902 save percentage and a 3.32 GAA.
On July 19, 2007, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Ty Conklin as a free agent to a 1-year, 2-way $500,000 contract. Despite having played below expectations since the NHL lockout, Conklin has been paying huge dividends for the Penguins since starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury left in early December with a high-ankle sprain. Conklin’s red hot play has uprooted backup tender Dany Sabourin, bolstered team confidence, and inspired the rest of the Penguins team to step-up their play. As a result, the Penguins have gone 7-0 when Conklin has started and have won 8 of their last 10-games.
It is hard to predict how long Conklin’s strong play will continue, but his confidence is at an all time high. He keeps it all in perspective, however, noting that the team has played very well in front of him. Whatever happens in the long run, Conklin has been the right man in the right place at the right time for the Penguins.
Lets Go Pens!